Coronavirus in Tennessee: Homeless shelters make changes to prevent spread of COVID-19

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KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WATE) — For organizations that focus on providing food, shelter, and other support for individuals experiencing homelessness, the coronavirus pandemic is changing some daily procedures.

First, many East Tennessee shelters are now requiring screenings before individuals are admitted inside the shelter facility.

Knox Area Rescue Ministries (KARM) is using a mobile intake center, which is set up outside of the Broadway location in Knoxville. The first step: Check the temperature of anyone who arrives.

“We have a staging area upstairs, from downstairs space, to staging, to shower, to bed. We’ve eliminated seating in chapel except for when we absolutely have to,” said Burt Rosen, CEO of KARM.

Rosen said the staff at KARM are working remotely and there are no volunteers inside the shelter at this time. There are also adjustments to the facility setup, making more space to keep anyone inside separated.

“We’ve created outdoor seating. We’ve done that on the courtyard and we’ve created additional seating inside the building as well,” said Rosen.

KARM serves 750 to 1,000 meals per day, to keep numbers down during meal times, the availability is extended to limit crowds.

The Tennessee Valley Coalition for the Homeless (TVCH) is also implementing changes to keep those experiencing homelessness healthy during the COVID-19 outbreak.

In a series of reccomedations that follow CDC guidelines, TVCH is working with partner shelters to keep spacing between sleeping cots/beds further a part.

It is also recommended that shelters clean more often and have access to hand sanitizer, and other disinfecting products.

Groups are also educating those within local shelters on proper hygiene and hand-washing techniques.

Shelters are also notified that they do not have to be at maximum capacity at this time.

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