WILMINGTON, N.C. (WECT) - Shelters for those who are experiencing homelessness use a combination of disaster protocols and innovative thinking to provide safe places for people to stay in the new era of social distancing.
At the Salvation Army complex, located between 2nd and 3rd streets in Downtown Wilmington, a white tent now provides 25 additional beds where people can stay and receive a meal.
Neither the Salvation Army shelter nor the Good Shepherd Center can take in new guests who have not already stayed at the shelter; they’re operating under protocols set by the state for 'shelter in place’ situations.
However, those in need of shelter who are free of any possible coronavirus symptoms are welcome to stay in the tent until it reaches capacity.
On Thursday night, people were already taking advantage of the space.
“The tent to me is an extension of the community,” said Corps Assistant Anthony Fox. "I love the fact that we’re able to do this and give back to others. This community is an amazing community.”
At the Good Shepherd Center, roughly 50 men were spread out between three dorm areas and two other rooms. All of the women and children at the shelter are now housed at a hotel to keep fewer people in one building.
However, that option is not financially sustainable for all organizations.
Major Mark Craddock said the Salvation Army has infectious disease protocols in place for if something like the flu were to spread through the shelter; however, none of the protocols were explicit for managing the current level of recommended social distancing.
The tent is one of the ways he said community organizations came together, pooling resources and finding new solutions.
“This is us as a community valuing every person in our community,” Craddock said. "That’s what this tent is. It’s a temporary shelter. It’s a place that’s a safe place where they can be fed and they can be housed off the street.”
Craddock said the group is working on a plan for what to do if a shelter resident contracts COVID-19 and needs to arrange isolation spaces.
They are also looking at additional options for setting up other temporary shelters in the community, like in a church gymnasium as sometimes happens in response to a hurricane.
While the Good Shepherd Center has suspended its soup kitchen operations, the Salvation Army continues providing meals in to-go containers each night at 6 p.m. at 820 N. Second Street.