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Homeless shelters prep for crowded winter amid pandemic

Published: Oct. 20, 2020 at 8:39 AM MDT
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COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. (KKTV) - While there is high potential for the coronavirus to spread inside homeless shelters this winter, directors at one shelter say their services are too essential to limit their intake.

Cold weather is settling in, with overnight lows dropping into the teens this weekend. Homeless shelters tend to fill up as the weather gets colder, and we asked one shelter what they plan to do when so many people are trying to come inside given pandemic concerns.

“We are not scaling back anything," said Andy Petersen, development director of Colorado Springs youth shelter The Place. “In fact, we have increased the opportunity to have case managers and direct care people with the youth all day.”

The Place plans to allow all 20 beds in their shelter to fill up, even though anyone who comes into the shelter could bring the coronavirus with them and spread it to others. Petersen says while that is a factor, now is not the time to limit the number of people they help, given that they have seen an uptick in reports of mental health trauma during the pandemic.

“People have had to rethink everything about their life because nothing is certain, nothing is stable from day to day, and I think we have seen that with the mental trauma that the youth has experienced,” Petersen adds.

The shelter reduced the amount of volunteers in their building in recent months. They also screen people with symptom questions and temperature checks. They say they enforce mask-wearing, hand-washing, social distancing, and other precautions. They also used federal pandemic relief money to buy sanitation supplies like wipes and disinfectant spray.

While shelters will likely be full at many points because of wintry weather, medical experts have also warned of an uptick in COVID-19 cases due to cold temperatures.

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