TSA Wake County continues to implement social distancing in shelter environment

Weeks ago, when news of the coming coronavirus pandemic made its way to the Carolinas, The Salvation Army of Wake County began immediately considering the ramifications on the County's most vulnerable – those experiencing homelessness.

At the Barbara L. Goodmon Women’s and Children Shelter, over 100 women and children regularly find a safe haven from the streets. This Center of Hope is a place where families find not only food and lodging, but resources to help them discover a path out of homelessness. COVID-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus, changes everything.

In the time since the first case of COVID-19 in Wake County was diagnosed, the number of known positive cases has grown significantly. To prevent the spread of the disease, local public health officials began to implement serious measures aimed at slowing its progress, including more recently a Stay at Home Order issued by Wake County that went into effect on March 27 at 5:00 p.m. Large gatherings were banned. Events were canceled. Restaurants and bars were closed. Stores began selling out of essentials like cleaning products, hand sanitizer and toilet paper. How do you navigate these requirements and difficult circumstances while serving so many families in need in one building?

Continuum of Care leaders began working alongside The Salvation Army to come up with solutions. First and foremost, the best way to keep COVID-19 from entering and spreading in homeless shelters is to increase the space between residents. When there’s no additional bed space available, that means thinking outside the building. TSA Wake County leaders and board members immediately embarked on an effort to move the residents in the shelter, by working with local hotels. The coordinated effort helps to keep hotel doors open, and its employees are working, keeping much needed valuable jobs in our community.

TSA Wake County quickly moved more than 30 families with young children out of the shelter temporarily into comfortable rooms where they can safely practice social distancing. While the crisis is ongoing, The Salvation Army is continuing to make sure each family has its daily needs met. Caseworkers are checking by phone, and video conferencing tools such as FaceTime and Skype.

“At the Center of Hope, the health and safety of the people we serve is our top priority," says Major Al Newsome, area commander for The Salvation Army of Wake County. "We are appreciative of our board members for their leadership. This critical step will help many – not only those finding a safe place outside the shelter but for our staff who remain at the Center of Hope. We are now poised to assist the County efforts of serving the broader scope of our homeless population on the streets. Presently we continue to feed the population curbside meals, practicing social distancing.”

Social distancing is a hard concept for all of us to grasp. It’s even harder for vulnerable populations who don’t have alternate living arrangements or access to the same comforts many of us enjoy. Having to keep a safe distance from each other reminds us all of how much we need each other.

By Saturday morning, all families were safely sheltered into a hotel. Also, The Salvation Army is continuing to ensure its residents are well-informed, safe, and observing proper preventative measures.

The Salvation Army is continuing to find creative ways to keep families experiencing homelessness not only safe from the streets but also safe from the virus making its way through the streets. Eventually, this crisis will pass. In the meantime, The Salvation Army’s Mission to serve, “the least, the last, and the lost," continues through this crisis.

If you would like to help us continue to meet the need of our community, please click here to make a donation.

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What price tag can we put on the value of the lives of the women and children in need who occupy this space?