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Homeless shelters look for ways to help, protect some of the most vulnerable during COVID-19 crisis

One shelter is asking for donations of hand sanitizers and cleaning products

San Antonio – Some of the most vulnerable members of our community have no place to take shelter during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Shelters like Haven for Hope have shut down its intake center to keep the population of the shelter at roughly 1,700 and protect those who are inside.

Haven for Hope CEO Kenny Wilson says exceptions will be made for families with children, veterans and a few through selected targeting outreach. He says his staff of 255 continues to work and brave the storm.

“These are the front line people as well. We have not a single COVID-19 case,” Wilson said. “But we have a lot of those people that fit into the category with underlining conditions and the age range that makes them susceptible to the virus.”

Social distancing is strongly enforced on campus, he says. Cleaning crews go around campus every two hours, wiping down areas that are touched often.

“We have a fabulous staff that care for people and works hard and are going right in the face of this terrible news and not flinching. They are leading with their hearts,” he said.

The City of San Antonio is also leading an effort to help the high number of people who are on the streets. In the next few days, the city plans to launch a hotline to help people reach social services. Meal hubs have also been deployed to feed the homeless.

Dr. Colleen Bridger, assistant city manager, says they are piecing together an additional safety net for the growing number of homeless people.

“We’re redeploying staff to the field so they can interact with homeless individuals and let them know what services are available to them,” said Bridger.

Both Haven for Hope and the city are looking at what funds are available federally and at the state level to help with homelessness.

On Thursday the city announced that the implementation of the homeless strategic plan would be delayed. The recommendations were supposed to be presented to council in March. The plan cut is due to budget changes the city is making following fiscal changes in the city’s uncertain economic future.

Haven for Hope says it depends on the help of volunteers to do a lot of jobs around the center, but without those volunteers available, they are having to pay people to do the job. They are asking for donations of hand sanitizers and cleaning products.

COVID-19, the respiratory disease caused by the new virus, stands for coronavirus disease 2019. The disease first appeared in late 2019 in Wuhan, China, but spread around the world in early 2020, causing the World Health Organization to declare a pandemic in March.

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