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Columbus homeless shelter continues COVID-19 safety plans, anticipates an increase in people needing help

The Faith Mission homeless shelter has transformed its facility to add more living spaces while accomodating for COVID-19 safety measures.

COLUMBUS, Ohio — Lutheran Social Services operates the Faith Mission homeless shelter. The shelter provides care, resources and warm meals to men, women and veterans.

At the beginning of the pandemic, the thought of ever having to turn someone away due to not having enough space was frightening.

Vice President of Community Based Services Sue Villilo said that exact thought crossed their minds.

“Absolutely, what we did in response to that is walk through our building and try to think very creatively about how we can use space differently,” Villilo said.

They transformed the shelter by adding more living spaces in the lobby of their main building and in the waiting area where the men are, and their training room where the women are.

Inside are plexiglass barriers and an air purification system added to their HVAC.

The system is from Global Plasma Solutions and will be cleaning not only the air, but also the surfaces, and will happen continuously. These units were also installed in Lutheran Social Services’ CHOISES domestic violence shelter and at their senior living communities.

These systems were made possible through the CARES Act funding.

Faith Mission staff is also trying to tackle how to handle the vaccine distribution and making sure those who want the shot, get it.

“I think as far as the vaccines go, really educating people about the value of the vaccines about what they can expect as far as any kind of side effects goes,” Villilo said.

They’re also working to reassure each person living there that it’s a safe place and if they don’t feel well, speak up.

“We would never kick someone out because they were ill. We’d get them to the proper resource so they would have a safe place to recover,” Villilo said.

The shelter has a federally qualified health center on-site and a partnership with the Community Shelter Board.

The Community Shelter Board is operating a shelter for isolation and quarantine in the case of anyone catching COVID-19.

As the days go on and shelters continue to care for those coming to them for help, they anticipate these numbers will increase down the road.