WILMINGTON, N.C. (WECT) – Many cold nights are ahead this winter, and some potentially dangerous temperatures for people who do not have a home, but the pandemic has made it even tougher.
For nearly two years Good Shepherd Center in Wilmington has reduced its overnight capacity to around 50 people. For some perspective, the shelter housed more than 100 people after Hurricane Florence, and just before the pandemic it averaged around 75 people overnight.
“Congregate shelters are not designed, unfortunately, for social distancing. It’s a lot easier to develop a new culture of masking and stepping up hygiene and sanitizing all throughout the building, but what is difficult is achieving that six feet between folks,” said Good Shepherd Center Executive Director Katrina Knight. “We’ve tried 30, we’ve tried 40, and lately we’ve been trying to address demand, but also achieve safety; we’re hovering around 50 adults and children.”
Approaching two years in, the pandemic has put a heavy focus on some of the most vulnerable people like seniors, veterans and those with disabilities.
While there aren’t as many people housed in the shelters overnight, there are still many people using the day shelter to get any help they possibly can.
“We just figured — while we have to put our heads together and figure out how — with our community support, we’re going to do even better by folks, regardless of the dynamic that we are working within,” Knight said.
Staff has been more motivated to support these individuals and provide them resources to find stable housing for their future. Placing one person or family into a new home means more room at the shelter for another person in need.
With the help of the health department, more than 85% of people at the shelter have had the opportunity to be vaccinated.
“We know that’s been a huge help, and to the health department’s view, has been a big factor in being able to keep exposures to a minimum in what’s understandably a very vulnerable group,” Knight said.
The community has continued to support the shelter through donations and volunteers, and Knight looks forward to serving more people in need throughout the community once the pandemic is over.
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