Coronavirus puts strain on homeless system, officials say

Local leaders charged with taking care of homeless or at-risk populations in the area say the coronavirus may put a strain on the system.

Helen Fahey, director of mission advancement for St. Vincent De Paul, said no one at either of the two shelters St. Vincent operates have gotten sick, but they are in preventative mode.

Some costs for the shelters are doubling or tripling because of the coronavirus. Fahey said between the Gettysburg Gateway for Men and the St. Vincent Gateway Shelter for Women and Families, the organization is averaging about 450 people a night.

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The shelters are also in need of monetary donations. Anyone who wishes to donate to St. Vincent can do so at their website.

“Nobody budgeted for something like this to happen,” Fahey said.

Some of the preventative measures St. Vincent has been using include taking all employees’ temperatures, encouraging all staff and guests to practice good hygiene and increased sanitation in their shelters and other housing. Fahey said St. Vincent is also working on getting washing stations to make it even easier for employees and guests at the shelters to wash their hands more frequently.

St. Vincent also has a plan in case someone in one of their shelters gets the coronavirus.

“It’s difficult when you have people living in community,” Fahey said. “But they don’t have anyone else to take care of them right now. It’s hard for them to feel like they have a place in a time like this where everyone is hunkering down at their homes.”

Daybreak’s youth shelter has also started screening anyone who enters the building.

Linda Kramer, CEO of Daybreak, said they have closed beds in their minor wing so that there is a space to quarantine someone if they get the coronavirus.

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Daybreak has also moved all it’s mental health care to be conducted over the phone or video chat.

They have suspended all physical donations. Kramer said Daybreak will still accept monetary donations.

For more information on how to donate to Daybreak, visit the shelter's website.

“We don’t know what the extra costs are yet,” Kramer said. “We don’t know the full financial impact of this yet.”

The St. Vincent shelters are still accepting physical donations. The biggest need St. Vincent has is for bath towels, wash cloths and twin sheets, Fahey said.

“We’re washing those kinds of items a lot more frequently now, so we are needing more and more of them,” she said.

The shelter is also in need of canned goods, like tuna or peanut butter, Fahey said.

Anyone who wishes to donate towels or sheets to St. Vincent can drop them off at their donation center at 120 W. Apple Street in Dayton.

Kramer and Fahey said they are worried about how long all homeless shelters in the Miami Valley can continue to provide the services they provide.

“We’re nervous about how long we can do this,” Kramer said. “We’re going to keep doing what we’re doing for as long as we can. The homeless system all over the country are first responders, too.”

In an effort to help at-risk Ohioans, the Public Utilities Commission of Ohio recently requested all utilities in the state suspend disconnections and waive requirements for disconnection as of March 12.

On Thursday, Ohio Supreme Court Chief Justice Maureen O’Connor encouraged local courts to temporarily stay eviction and foreclosure notices, except in the case of domestic violence, where the home is not the safest place for someone.

This week, Dayton Municipal Court suspended all evictions until April 30.

Kettering, Oakwood and Fairborn courts have also suspended the eviction process.

Jim McCarthy, president and CEO of the Miami Valley Fair Housing Center Inc., said the Eastern and Western Division municipal courts are still executing writs of restitution and moving people out of their homes. McCarthy said the order around evictions from the Montgomery County Municipal Court isn’t clear.

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McCarthy said Thursday he got a call from the VA for a patient who was self-quarantining because he believed he had been exposed to the new coronavirus. Their eviction hearing was on March 9 in Montgomery County Municipal Court. The man thought because he was self-quarantining he would be okay, but the bailiffs showed up and removed his belongings.

McCarthy said the VA tried talking to property management but management was unwilling to work with the tenants.

“Somebody needs to step back and say, ‘we’re in the middle of a pandemic, maybe we shouldn’t be moving people around unnecessarily,” McCarthy said.

A representative of the court was not able to be reached to comment for this story.

McCarthy said he is concerned because if the tenants who were evicted were exposed to the coronavirus, then the entire move-out crew and bailiffs may also now be exposed to the virus.

The tenant who was self-quarantining went to a homeless shelter, McCarthy said.

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“Until we get a handle on this, they should stop moving people unnecessarily,” McCarthy said. “Those people either end up crowding in on family or going to the homeless shelters. That just puts more strain on the system.”

McCarthy said that for people whose evictions have been halted, they should not feel like they have to move until there are law enforcement officers at their door.

“You of course have to comply with law enforcement, but if just management comes and tells you to move out, you don’t have to,” McCarthy said.

Also this week, the Montgomery County Clerk of Courts announced that the Western Division courthouse located on South Clayton Road in New Lebanon and the Eastern Division courthouse on Taylorsville Road in Huber Heights are closed to the public.

Dayton Mayor Nan Whaley applauded Dayton Municipal Court for being halting eviction orders.

“Considering the public health crisis that we’re in, having those people move around and probably move into spaces that will not social distance or physically distance them, that’s a real issue right now,” Whaley said. “This is the humane thing for us to do as we deal with this public health emergency, is to halt all evictions. I appreciate Dayton Municipal Court taking fast action.”

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