ANN ARBOR, Mich. (WXYZ) — This holiday season, homeless shelters are in need of more help than ever before. Along with cold weather, they’re feeling the brunt of the latest surge of COVID-19.
“The need is as high as ever considering what we’re going through,” said Daniel Kelly, executive director for the Shelter Association of Washtenaw County. "Shelters, group homes, other congregate facilities, really we don't ever close. We can't close."
Right now, the Delonis Center in Ann Arbor is dealing with an outbreak of COVID-19. After finding one case a few weeks ago, they tested every guest and in one night had over 20 positive cases.
“Many were asymptomatic," Kelly said. "So the health screenings (like temperature checks) that we were doing at the door to help catch COVID cases were not working in this instance.”
In a matter of hours, the shelter had to open an isolation site and offered monoclonal antibody treatments to anyone who was sick. However, some guests had to be hospitalized and some remain seriously ill.
More than 70% of their guests report a disability and many have chronic health issues.
“We had to increase our operational needs with opening an entire site in a matter of hours, but at the same time, we do have staff out who are affected by this,” Kelly said.
Despite having staff members pulling doubles, the shelter never closed their doors during the outbreak and continued to offer housing to those in need.
“We don't want to essentially trade one public health emergency for another one, and we refuse to do that to folks," Kelly said. "Shelter is literally live saving.”
The center tests everyday and is now down to just one or two cases a day. However as long as community spreads is this high, shelters like Delonis will continue to be on alert.
“I think we’re past our peak is what public health has said, but we have to remain extra diligent as ever right now,” Kelly said.
As they fight the pandemic, the Delonis Center is in need of both volunteers and financial support. You can find that information by going to www.annarborshelter.org.
Kelly says the Center also offers COVID-19 vaccination to their guests and currently has a vaccination rate of about 70%.