“Why would we not help them?”: Local groups provide support for homeless in wake of COVID-19

DHEC will provide vouchers to homeless people who are needing to be quarantined or are exhibiting symptoms

COLUMBIA, S.C. (WOLO) —One group of people who might be at risk of not getting swift treatment for the coronavirus are the homeless.

However, some groups in the Midlands are doing their part to make sure they are safe and get the treatment they need.

The staff at both Oliver Gospel Mission and Transitions Homeless Center in Columbia are exercising social distancing between staff and clients, while also doing more cleaning to prevent the spread of the virus.

Even though they don’t know right away if people they help have the virus, some say they will not turn anyone away.

“You can’t just go to a homeless person and say go home and quarantine yourself. They don’t have a home to go to, so what are you really telling them,” said Craig Currey, the CEO of Transitions Homeless Center.

The United Way of the Midlands says last year, there were more than 800 people in Richland County who were in shelters or on the streets.

Before people come into the door at Oliver Gospel Mission, Executive Director Travis McNeal says they will know off the bat if a person has a fever.

“We have infrared thermometers that we can take the temperatures of every man who walks through our door and if they have a temperature of 100 or above, we’re asking them not to come into our facility and to receive treatment,” McNeal said.

If someone at Oliver Gospel Mission starts to experience symptoms or tests positive, then DHEC will provide that person a voucher for a hotel room where they can be safely isolated.

Meanwhile, if someone at Transitions starts to experience symptoms, then they will be taken to the Eau Claire Health Cooperative Clinic on campus, where they will be separated from others.

By practicing social distancing, encouraging people to wash their hands, and keeping their facilities cleans, both leaders at Transitions and Oliver Gospel Mission say they are doing everything they can to keep helping others.

“We’re trying to be as compassionate as possible while protecting the staff and we want to meet the clients’ needs and help them,” said Currey.

When it comes to serving meals, both Transitions and Oliver Gospel Mission will be placing people further apart and giving them more portable dining options.

Both groups have been in contact with DHEC about what they should do to protect their staff and the people they help, and they say they will continue to work to keep their doors open and serve those who need them.

According to DHEC, there are 60 positive cases of coronavirus in South Carolina as of Wednesday afternoon, with 33 in Kershaw, Richland, and Lexington Counties.

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