If you find yourself in need of temporary shelter to isolate yourself because of COVID-19, it may be a little more challenging in some places.
It could get particularly difficult for people experiencing homelessness as Ward County ends its non-congregate sheltering program.
The county’s sheltering program began at the height of the pandemic in 2020 to provide temporary shelter for people who needed to isolate or quarantine after contracting the virus or being exposed to it.
Ward County’s Emergency Management Director Jennifer Wiechmann said, “It was really important to a lot of them especially with the North Dakota winters if you have nowhere else to go, it’s not only helpful to them but anybody else that may be if they were homeless or just went to another city and went to a shelter and could possibly cause an outbreak it’s helpful on that aspect.”
The sheltering program was targeted at people experiencing homelessness or for those who could put other people at risk by isolating themselves in their own homes.
Nevertheless, the program has now come to an end.
“Managing a shelter especially in a disaster my job is to find somebody to do that because it’s a lot of work and that’s kind of a big piece of why we had to discontinue it because there was nobody else able to do the management of it,” said Wiechmann.
Such people were sheltered in hotels, but Wiechmann says it was getting difficult to find places that were willing to shelter people because of bad behavior and a reviving hotel industry.
According to Wiechmann, “There’s no other jurisdiction in the state of North Dakota that has continued this program that the state started.”
She explained that “everyone has dropped it for kind of the same reason but on top of that, it comes with its liabilities. We’ve had guests that have stayed and damaged hotel rooms and caused scenes.”
Alternatives for people in need of this kind of sheltering are nonprofits like Project BEE and Men’s Winter Refuge.
At Men’s Winter Refuge, Executive Director Mike Zimmer said they will do their best for the homeless who present with COVID.
“Being a small organization ourselves we don’t have the capability to handle it ourselves but we, on a case-by-case basis, we will absolutely work with the same community partners that we work with all the time and do our best to find a safe spot for those individuals to quarantine,” said Zimmer.
As COVID continues to spread in the state, Wiechmann is worried sheltering options may be fewer for people who may need it.
Since its inception in June 2020, the program has provided shelter for about 20 people. Five others received non-shelter services like transportation assistance or redirection to other organizations.