As everyone knows, the current COVID-19 pandemic has caused many public facilities to close down. With many people staying at home to help flatten the curve, one can only wonder what those without a home are supposed to do.
Many homeless shelters and soup kitchens in the Cincinnati area have been forced to close, or operate under limited conditions during the pandemic. Current circumstances have not only made it more difficult for the homeless to find the resources they need to survive, but have also taken away the social communities and networks that many homeless people rely on. Luckily, Cincinnati seems to have a plan to make this current time of hardship more tolerable for the homeless.
The current solution that local homeless shelters and Hamilton County seem to be working towards is getting hotel rooms for the homeless to stay in during quarantine. According to WLWT5, various shelters have come together to provide 330 hotel rooms for homeless families and individuals.
Hamilton County Commission President Denis Driehaus mentioned that voting would take place on Thursday to authorize the use of $1.1 million in emergency community grants to pay for hotel rooms for the next 45 days. Part of the funding for this would come from the CARES act recently passed by Congress.
The city of Cincinnati also plans to use the Over-the-Rhine Recreation Center to offer some of the homeless a safe place to quarantine. When a healthcare provider identifies that a homeless person is experiencing symptoms of COVID-19, they will refer that person to the Cincinnati Health Department, who will send them to the Over-the-Rhine Center, or another Cincinnati Recreation Center location. This is being done to help prevent the spread of the virus from person to person on the streets. City Manager Patrick Duhaney says that these centers are designed to help people without homes “maintain their dignity as they traverse a very difficult situation that a lot of us, homeless or not, are probably going to have to go through over the next several weeks.”
Four of Cincinnati’s main family shelters, the Bethany House, Interfaith Hospitality Network of Greater Cincinnati and shelters operated by the YWCA and the Salvation Army claim that they are struggling to keep up with the increasing needs during the pandemic.
Food banks have also experienced an increase in demand during the pandemic. Two food banks in the Cincinnati area, Freestore Foodbank and Shared Harvest in Fairfield, are part of the Feeding America network, which has just received a $100 million donation. Freestore Foodbank President and CEO Kurt Reiber said that the money will help over the next 40 days.
As we take the time out of our daily lives to practice social distancing, it is important to not forget those who do not have a home. While the city of Cincinnati as well as other organizations are doing their part to ameliorate the current situation, its important to think about ways in which the average person can also help.