homeless

Front view of the Community Crossroads Center, the only homeless shelter in Greenville. 

The Community Crossroads Center is the only homeless shelter in Greenville, North Carolina and has limited the number of individuals allowed in its center due to the COVID-19. The pandemic could affect the shelter and those who reside there drastically and is considered a high-risk environment, but the staff plan to keep the community safe.

Executive Director for the Community Crossroads Center, Ken Becker, said the homeless shelter is following the Center for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) and the authorities in Greenville’s guidelines and acting accordingly.

Becker said that as of now when people come into the shelter, they are being asked if they have any symptoms of the coronavirus. If they do, he said they will have their temperature taken by the staff to make sure they don’t have a fever and there is a newly installed hand washing station outside the front door.

“We haven't had any cases yet. Hopefully it will stay that way. I don't think we will have any cases anytime soon, but we are definitely making preparations so if we do have our first one. We will be fully prepared,” Becker said. 

Becker mentioned the shelter also has hand sanitizer made from scratch out of alcohol and glycerin. He said all of the staff is wearing gloves and masks at all times, especially when checking individuals in, to reduce exposure of the virus.

If the center is told they have to close, Becker said it will have to keep everyone inside 24/7 or have the residents find a place to stay that is not a high-risk environment, but at this time, the staff is operating on their standard schedule.

“I think our biggest challenge is of course going to be feeding everyone. We have breakfast and dinner brought in by volunteers in the community and we have a lot of faith based support in the area. If we go into lock down, I'm not sure how much of that support we will still get,” Becker said.

Becker mentioned the center is not accepting any new people at this moment in hopes to reduce the amount of people staying there.

The only people who are staying at this shelter now are the people who have already been staying there previously. Those people have been told if they have a low-risk place they can stay, they are encouraged to go there, according to Becker.

“We've never done this before. Although we opened up our doors 32 years ago, we've never closed them, and we hope to keep that record going so we'll just have to see how it goes. There’s no playbook, but we're gearing up and we're doing everything we can and following all the guidelines so hopefully things will turn out well,” Becker said.

Becker said he has a great team and a great Board of Directors that the center depends on. He also mentioned he has complete faith that he, his team, and the shelter will come through the other end better than they started.

Joe Nelson, current member of the Board of Directors for the Community Crossroads Center, who is also chairman for the Governance Committee, said the board has been discussing necessary protocol for weeks. He said they really have been proactive in the process of preparing to take necessary precautions.

Nelson said the board insisted on changing the sleeping arrangements and the shelter has placed barriers in between the sleeping bunks. CDC posters have been put up all around the facility in hopes of educating the residents about following regulations on social distancing, hygiene, symptom reporting and protecting themselves from the coronavirus in general, according to Nelson.

“We want to protect our community and protect our residents as well. We are working with community partners and it has just been incredible the way everybody has come together during this unfortunate time,” Nelson said.

Nelson said he considers the shelter a central service for the community with it being the only homeless shelter in the area. However, he said he considers the shelter a high-risk for the coronavirus because it is a communal environment.

The men stay in one dorm and the women stay in another dorm and everyone dines together in the dining hall, so there is no private part of the shelter, according to Nelson. He said he hopes the barriers in between the beds will help with the distancing of residents.

“We've brought our daily census down from a high of 83 at the beginning of the year and right now, we're at 51. After the virus has at least peaked and started to go down or the authorities say that the pandemic has reached as far as it's going to go, that’s when things will hopefully die down,” Nelson said.

Nelson said the center already operates on a narrow budget, so the coronavirus could put a financial strain on them. The fundraising efforts will become hectic over time and Nelson said he hopes the community will give back now more than ever.

A memo was posted by Becker on the Community Crossroads Center website that said the community of Greenville helped the residents of the shelter by serving over 57,000 meals in 2019. During the coronavirus pandemic, the shelter hopes to receive support from the community as much as they did last year, according to the memo.

The memo said donated food should be prepared at home by a limited number of people and should be dropped off at the shelter kitchen for staff and residents to serve. The health, well-being and safety of the residents and surrounding community is the utmost priority to the staff, according to the memo.

“In the event a resident is diagnosed with COVID-19, public health officials will be immediately notified, and the above protocol will be changed. We will do everything we can to keep you and our residents as safe as possible. We value and need your continued support,” the memo said.

Although the coronavirus is circulating its way throughout Greenville, the Community Crossroads Center will continue to work hard to ensure there are no outbreaks within the shelter, but they are fully prepared to handle that situation if it arises.

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