Peoria's homeless shelters are staying open amid COVID-19 related closures, but they face some challenges in finding the space and resources to accommodate the need.
Jesse Collins, tri-county commander for the Salvation Army, said they do not plan to close shelters. If anything, he said, efforts will ramp up. But there's a caveat.
"We will be at capacity in this crisis, there's no doubt about that,” he said. “We're kind of taking people as they come and giving as many beds as we have."
Collins said to prevent the spread of COVID-19, the Salvation Army is currently only serving meals to the men that live in their shelters.
The Salvation Army currently houses about 65 men. Collins says if they reach a crisis point, they can open other facilities, like their building on Nebraska Avenue, to shelter more people.
“We don’t anticipate that,” he said. “We believe that everybody in this community will be served in one capacity or another. During the day, there may be issues because the RiverPlex and parks and recs are closed, and the library is closed. The Salvation Army is never closed.”
Peoria Rescue Ministries is facing a similar strap for space.
"Some jobs that guys have as they're here are being either reduced or eliminated,” said executive director Jonathan Rocke. “That's keeping us fuller during the day than we might usually be."
Rocke said they've made more room by taking over spaces usually reserved for ministries or other services. He said they've also started staggering meals and other communal activities to achieve social distancing.
Rocke said they'll continue to accept people into the shelter, but will screen for possible coronavirus symptoms first. He says they're partnering with OSF Healthcare to get people medical attention, if needed.
Peoria Rescue Ministries and other shelters have also implemented more vigilant cleaning schedules.
Rocke said they're on the market for hand sanitizer, disinfectant wipes, disposable gloves, N95 masks, and more. He said current supplies won't be sufficient to keep their population of 75 safe.
“We’re a ministry to people and even more to vulnerable and hurting people, so eliminating risk in our scenario is not really possible,” he said.
Rocke said donations dropped off at the Peoria Rescue Ministries downtown facility will be dispersed between all Peoria shelters, including the Salvation Army and Dream Center.
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