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Coping with COVID-19: Local homeless shelters help community

Written by on May 5, 2020

While businesses are suffering through these tough times, so are non-profit organizations whom many greatly depend on. 

One of those organizations is the Safe Harbor Shelter, hosted by the Salvation Army in Bloomington, Illinois.

The Safe Harbor Shelter is a homeless shelter that is still open during this time. However, there have been some changes to help protect everyone involved. 

Salvation Army spokesperson Angie Bubon explains how the pandemic has created a need for personnel changes.

“We have modified the shelter program to help protect the health of our clients and staff,” said Bubon. “We have suspended using volunteers at the shelter, to limit the number of people coming in and out of the building.”

Bubon also says youth programs, youth nights and after-school programs have been suspended for the rest of the school year. 

According to Bubon, a big concern with sheltering numerous people is overcrowding. However, since the Safe Harbor Shelter is giving out food bags only on Monday, the numbers are changing. 

 Bubon said the numbers have increased exponentially since mid-March despite the food pantry only being open on Mondays from 1-4 p.m.

Since March 16, the shelter has served 1452 individuals from 394 families and 35 percent of those families are first-time visitors to the pantry. In a typical month prior to the pandemic, the shelter served 200 to 250 families. 

Photo courtesy to Salvation Army Facebook page

In addition to shelter, Safe Harbor is also providing additional life assistance. There have been increasing phone calls regarding rent and utility payments. Bubon said the Safe Harbor Shelter operates an “emergency financial assistance program” to aid those in need.

 Bubon said COVID-19- related issues have the programs expecting numbers to continue ballooning.

 “We are seeing a lot of people having to access our programs for the first time due to COVID-19 related issues such as loss of income and kids not getting school-provided meals,” said Bubon. “We believe this will be the case for months to come as businesses remain closed and people are out of work.”

While the Salvation Army and Safe Harbor Shelter continue to provide help to those in need, they cannot do it without financial support.

“There are many in need and many that will be in short order due to the pandemic,” said Bubon.

Donations can be made at https://www.salvationarmyusa.org/usn/.