Springfield agencies adjust after first COVID-19 case in homeless community

Published: Jun. 29, 2020 at 11:26 AM CDT
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Assistance agencies in Springfield are adjusting services and taking even more precautions after the homeless community's first positive test for COVID-19.

The Veterans Coming Home Center closed its building on Friday to deep clean. Staff say the person who tested positive frequented the building.

"We did our very best the help the individual that day get to where they needed to go," says manager Chris Rice. "They did not really want to receive that help."

Staff have now social distanced tables and chairs even more to prevent spread. Staff removed the sleeping area, and now serve breakfast and lunch outside. Instead of only encouraging masks, homeless must wear masks in the building.

Rice believes all the steps they're taking are very important.

"I think it's very very necessary, and personally it was a little bit of a wake-up call," said Rice. "In Springfield, we really haven't been been hit by COVID-19 as like St Louis or Kansas City, and then there was this undercurrent of feeling like, it's really not that big of an issue. Many of us have lived without even knowing somebody who's experienced COVID-19 personally. But now, this is kind of the worst case scenario, so we are doing everything that we can to keep ourselves and those that we serve safe and keep an outbreak from spreading all throughout the population of people that we serve."

The Springfield-Greene County Health Department says it could have test results from those tested Friday by as early as Monday afternoon. At last check, the health department says the tests that have come back have all been negative. It tested a total of 74 people on Friday.

At Victory Mission, they say the person who tested positive for COVID-19 on Friday has *not visited their facilities, but they’re continuing precautions they started earlier in the pandemic, like moving about 30 men in their restoration program into their administration building.

"When it really does touch the community that you’re helping and you’re serving, it heightens your awareness," says community engagement manager Janelle Reed.

Victory Mission says they’re doing lots of cleaning, temperature checks, and trying to allow for social distancing. About 100 other men are in the Victory Square shelter. But requirements have changed, no longer requiring men to go out looking for work.

But while trying to protect, those that serve the homeless are also trying to fight fear. "Here at Victory, we don’t want to live in fear. We don’t want to put fear into anybody’s hearts or minds," says Reed.

Rice says, "We are doing our best to try and alleviate that as much as possible, by keeping sure that our voices are calm, making sure that we are encouraging others with our words and with our actions, rather than just feeding kind of that fear."

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