COVID-19 forcing Valley homeless organizations to make changes

FRESNO, Calif. (KFSN) -- State officials say those who are homeless or at risk of being homeless may be at a higher risk of contracting COVID-19.

Now, homeless assistance providers, including shelters, are doing their best to navigate the public health emergency.

The Visalia Rescue Mission has not had any cases of COVID-19.

But the non-profit organization says they are taking steps to keep their workers, volunteers, and guests safe, and their facilities clean.

Last year, the mission served more than 100,000 meals, and provided shelter to more than 1,000 men, women, and children.

"The problem is people say, 'Keep your distance and go home,'" said VRM Executive Director Al Oliver. "Well, we are home to about 150 people every night. So we are home for them. We can't send them someplace else."

Al Oliver says they're implementing new protocols, practicing social distancing, and even building a new handwashing station for the kitchen.

They already have strict cleaning procedures for the shelter spaces.

"Every mattress, every bed frame gets wiped down every day," Oliver said. "The floors are mopped every day, the bathrooms and the showers are disinfected every day."

There is an impending problem-- vendors and stores have run out of cleaning supplies, including soap, sanitizer, and disinfectants-items the Visalia Rescue Mission needs for to keep their shelters and kitchen clean.

"Please consider partnering with us through these challenging times," VRM's Facebook post says. "Either through donations of cleaning supplies or by your financial support."

Visalia's Bethlehem Center, another non-profit for people in need, could also use some wipes and spray.

But they also would like items for the bagged meals they'll now be handing out, after closing their dining room.

"That would be paper bags, aluminum foil wraps, and containers-soup containers," said Bethlehem Center Supervisor Anna Hernandez.

On Monday, the center also changed how they distribute boxes of food.

Families will now pick them up in a drive-through line.

Tulare Lighthouse Rescue Mission says they could use socks, toilet paper, hand sanitizer, and if you're inclined, prayers.
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