OGDEN — The homeless face extra dangers during the coronavirus pandemic. They are routinely exposed to close groupings of people, have scant access to soap and sanitizer, and have nowhere to easily and safely quarantine.
Two Ogden shelters devoted to feeding the homeless and giving them nightly shelter are themselves scrambling to limit COVID-19 risks while still helping the seemingly ever-growing numbers of needy.
The Ogden Rescue Mission, 2781 Wall Ave., feeds 120 to 150 people daily and can house about 60 overnight.
It’s a small shelter, which complicates things with the threat of infectious disease.
“It’s very hard to keep people 6 feet away,” said director Judy Doud, referring to the minimum recommended social distance. “You’d have to stand almost out the window.”
The shelter has prepared its conference room as a place to house anyone who becomes ill. If someone develops a cough, the shelter gives the person a mask.
“We had hand sanitizers all through the building, but unfortunately they’re stealing them,” she said.
Three times a day, staff members use a bleach solution to wipe down surfaces such as doorknobs and handrails.
For now, the shelter has lost its volunteer doctors, who have been called back to their home clinics to work extra hours during the pandemic, Doud said.
Lantern House, 269 W. 33rd St., closed its kitchen to dining two weeks ago and is serving grab-and-go meals outside, said Lauren Navidomskis, executive director.
Overnight shelter is still being offered, although 6-foot space intervals have been marked on the floors. Spaces also have been marked outside the building in places where homeless usually line up for services, she said.
Hand-washing stations have been set up around the property.
Navidomskis said the shelter also has implemented an emergency plan to take temperature readings and conduct health screenings of all overnight clients.
If a person is feverish, influenza and strep tests are administered. If there’s a positive result, the person is isolated; negative results are followed by a COVID-19 test.
Anyone who tests positive for the coronavirus will be moved to another community site that has been set up to take homeless COVID-19 patients.
“We just don’t have the capacity” for COVID-19 cases, Navidomskis said.
The emergency shelter is in a building in the 200 block of 27th Street that formerly housed a youth services center, she said.
It resulted from discussions with the Weber County Commission, Ogden City and other service entities in the area, Navidomskis said.
“It’s been crazy, but we are very grateful for the community support and the reaction that we can prevent as much as possible,” she said. “With the things we are doing, we’re ahead of the curve.”
She also appreciates that the homeless have been patient with the changes.
“That’s why it’s been so smooth so far,” she said.
There’s not yet enough data to attribute the causes, but Navidomskis said the shelter has been seeing more homelessness in recent weeks.