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See the latest news and updates about COVID-19 and its impact on the Charlotte region, the Carolinas and beyond.

Homeless Shelters Take Precautions Amid Virus Outbreak, Seek Supplies

The Men's Shelter of Charlotte/Urban Ministry Center currently has 180 beds at its Statesville Avenue location, which will be replaced.
Michael Falero
Beds at the Charlotte Men's Shelter on Statesville Avenue.

People who work with homeless residents in Mecklenburg County say the coronavirus outbreak has prompted new precautions, including health screening for shelter guests. They’re working to reduce crowding at meal time and appealing for donations of food and other supplies.

“People experiencing homelessness are particularly at risk due to the congregate nature of our facilities and common health vulnerabilities (hypertension, diabetes, asthma, COPD),” Urban Ministry Center CEO Liz Clasen-Kelly said in an email message to the community Thursday night.

Mecklenburg County has two confirmed cases of COVID-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus. Neither has affected homeless residents. But Clasen-Kelly says they’re being cautious.

“We have begun a health screening for guests at our shelters, and have made the difficult but necessary decision to end our Room In The Inn program early, with the last check-in Friday evening, March 13. We are working towards transforming our meal service to reduce crowding, along with other precautions,” she said.

The Room in the Inn program houses and feeds homeless people at churches, colleges and other sites across the county. It runs from Dec. 1 to March 31, but this year is ending two weeks early.

Meanwhile, Clasen-Kelly is appealing for donations of tents, sleeping bags, and shower wipes to support people who sleep outside, and specific food items. There’s alist on the Urban Ministry Center website.  The Urban Ministry Center now includes the Men’s Shelter of Charlotte after a merger a year ago.

David Boraks is a veteran journalist who covers climate change for WFAE. See more at www.wfae.org/climate-news. He also has covered housing and homelessness, energy and the environment, transportation and business.