As the response to Covid-19 has intensified this week, life for the unsheltered has become more difficult. Normal channels for procuring, food clothing and shelter are closing, reducing or changing hours or going on-line. Rumors are flying, and there is a lot of misinformation being shared, Crossroads a good place to get out of the weather closed. The restroom at Lake George is now locked, eliminating another place for folks to clean up. And being many cannot go to our area shelters because of limitations on shelter space or other restrictions they still have no place to legally camp or sleep. Many have heath problems such as diabetes, asthma, addiction, heart disease and other immune compromising issues that will jeopardize them when the virus arrives in full force. Adding sleep deprivation and living outdoors only makes them more susceptible to being infected.
We were excited last week when we heard that a dorm on the SCSU campus would be available for housing folks in response to the virus. We were also encouraged by the example Hennepin and Ramsey County provided when they immediately made motel rooms available to those experiencing homelessness in their communities to those with underlying heath issues that made them more susceptible to the outbreak. To date, however, the are no people being housed in the dorms. Our emergency management operations people have determined that they will reserve the dorm for only those homeless who have tested positive. This decision leaves all those cold, sleep-deprived, health impaired, underfed neighbors outside and on the street, to fend for themselves. Furthermore, to our knowledge, they have not put either the sheltered or unsheltered on any priority list to be tested. If they already are infected, no one knows. They are being left out in the community to mingle and possibly expose others. This rejection of procedures that have been determined by other communities to be an effective method of delaying the progression of this disease has put not only those experiencing homelessness in mortal danger, but the whole tri-county area.
We see this virus as a freight train barreling toward an unsuspecting person walking along the tracks. We as a community can either leap to our feet, take a run, and knock the poor soul out of harms way. Or we can wring our hands, waste time setting up criteria and protocols trying to determine what would possibly go wrong in our effort to save the stroller. We could check if our insurance would cover it if an arm was broke, or if we could be sued or try to determine if our shouts could be heard over the roar of the approaching behemoth, or we can act.
I am very proud of the members of our community. They are again proving to us that they can make quick lifesaving decisions. That it is sometimes best to just act and do it now. Since we couldn’t wait for the bureaucrats any longer, we and Neighbors to Friends, yesterday put six unsheltered people with underlying heath issues, into a motel. Saint Cloud Prepper Pals immediately responded with a two-day supply of food, toiletries and other supplies. A grant was provided to house many more, starting tomorrow. We along with Neighbors to Friends have set up a care pack pick up station at Lake George to provide food and sanitary items to unsheltered neighbors. Catholic Workers, and generous souls from Bethlehem Lutheran and First United Methodist churches have enrolled an army of volunteers who are providing food, funds, care packs and other necessities. Over 40 sleeping bags, one tank of propane Four gas or gift cards 6 tents 3 air mattresses 3 tarps, hundreds of socks, lots of underwear, clothes, sanitizer, coats, care packs, and over 64 meals have been distributed this week by us, Neighbors to Friends and Catholic Charities Emergency services for Homeless Youth. We have paid for two bus fares home, had 1 pickup and 8 deliveries of furniture and household items, 5 requests for furniture and one for car repairs, We have put together an informational flyer titled “How to Stay Well”, to hand out to those on the street, most of which have no computers, TVs or phones to learn how to protect themselves. A copy is attached.
On a positive note, relationships with the police have improved. They have begun trying to locate the inhabitants of camps prior to the camps destruction so that campers can claim their personal property. Trespasses and citations are down and with one exception, all officers have been polite and courteous when asking folks to move on. We realize that the police must respond to complaints, but we have been visited both at Lake George and Kwik Trip by police when we were just distributing food, supplies and flyers. We need to educate the public so that they realized that the only way to educate unsheltered folks regarding safe distancing and the like, is on the street. We remind these folks to maintain the six-foot distance and tell them why. We let them know where they can get food and services and try to connect them to social workers and paramedics since they can no longer go to the service centers in person and there are no public computers available since the library closed. The public may see groups of homeless assembled, hopefully 6 ft apart, while we provide this info. Please don’t be alarmed. We are doing good.
We would like to thank the Franciscan Sisters at Welcoming House For the gift cards and $140 cash donation they collected for us, Bethlehem Lutheran for a $302 donation and all the individual contributors who donated an additional $300, this week
Our top needs this week are funds to pay for motels, gas and gift cards, food for those in motels and at lake George and Care Packs
We wish we could give each of you, and all our sheltered and unsheltered friends a hug. This is so hard. Bless and pray for the lonely, sick and suffering this week. Trust in God and love each other. Harry and Mary