Homeless Shelters Continue To Serve Vulnerable Populations During COVID-19 Outbreak

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Homeless shelters in Colorado Springs and Pueblo are working to serve vulnerable populations even as their own funding and capacity is strained due to COVID-19.

Kathy Cline is the executive director of the Pueblo Rescue Mission. She said she has communicated with the local soup kitchen and the public health department to ensure people are fed and have shelter.

The mission has around 100 beds and overflow space on the floor. Cline said it has routinely been at capacity since opening this January. 27 women and 80 men stayed there on Sunday night.

Cline said the organization has received an outpouring of food donations from the community and local restaurants.

"Because of restaurants and events that didn't happen, and restaurants that can’t use everything they have, we have just been blessed beyond belief," said Cline, "Let alone just people bringing us stuff."

While Cline said she hasn't seen an increase of people due to COVID-19, other shelters like Springs Rescue Mission have seen large increases in people accessing resources over the past few weeks.

Travis Williams, the chief development officer for Springs Rescue Mission, said the organization had around 360 people use day center services to access resources last Tuesday. He said that's a 140 percent increase for the organization.

He said he is grateful for the community's support, but wants to ensure the homeless population they serve are not at risk for infection.

"As far as community involvement, there are a lot of people reaching out," said Williams, "It’s just difficult to try and figure out how everybody can help particularly with spatial distancing being a priority."

Both shelters have increased cleaning protocols by sanitizing common areas and bedding multiple times a day. Williams said the organization is in talks to open an isolation shelter on Springs Rescue Mission's campus for those experiencing homelessness who have potential COVID-19 symptoms.

"Our staff, we're running ourselves thin right now to support the increase," said Williams, "Our staff is doing everything they can to provide the safest and cleanest of environments."

While both organizations are not sure how operations might change as the COVID-19 outbreak continues, Cline said she has hope for whatever is next.

"I can tell you nonprofits are not into bureaucracy, we're into action," said Cline. "We do it."