LAFAYETTE, Ind. (WLFI) — Quarantines are lifting at local homeless shelters after outbreaks of COVID-19.
But officials fear the winter weather combined with the untimely rise of COVID-19 in Tippecanoe County could continue to burden local homeless services.
"Perfect storm is a great way to describe it, yet it's more like a tsunami," says Jennifer Layton, president and CEO of LTHC Homeless Services.
The shelter at LTHC has been locked down since late November and is not accepting new clients until the quarantine lifts on Monday. Layton says keeping shelter doors open is crucial as winter weather sets in, she says.
"They already don't have housing, it's already winter, they don't have appropriate materials to stay warm," she says. "We really worry about people dying on the streets because of the weather and now you add COVID on top of it."
The shelter is still serving 140 guests who were already there at the time of the outbreak.
"LTHC, we've been very adamant about our practices, about making sure we are committed to staying open, committed to providing that safe place of shelter for folks, so this is what we had to just for new guests entering," Layton says.
As News 18 previously reported, Lafayette Urban Ministry's shelter was also locked down after an outbreak in November. LUM Executive Director Wes Tillett says the shelter began accepting new clients last Friday.
"We and LTHC have a number of COVID protocols in place, so taking temperatures, social distancing and mask-wearing. All of those are present all across the board," he says.
But Layton says homeless shelters and their guests are still vulnerable despite these COVID-19 protocols.
"They don't have a place to quarantine, they have poor health conditions already, so if there were ever an at-risk group of people that could more at risk to actually contract the virus, it would be these folks," she says.
Layton says about 10 ten shelter guests have tested positive for COVID-19 since the pandemic began in March.
Tillett isn't sure about the exact number of positive cases at LUM's shelter, but he says it only takes one to disrupt services.