The City of Columbus and the Community Shelter Board today announced the opening a new shelter for homeless men and women who test positive for COVID-19 or have been diagnosed with symptoms and need to be quarantined.
"The shelter we are opening today is the first among a few we will open," Community Shelter Board executive director Michelle Heritage said. "Anywhere from two or three additional may be needed depending on what's happening with this pandemic. It is to keep single men and women and families safe, whether they need isolation or quarantine. We are working directly with the medical service corps to provide us with medical interventions and tele-medicine. In addition, the Franklin County ADAMH board and others are working with us to meet the behavioral health and other needs of these individuals and families that will need this service."
Officials are not identifying the location of the new shelter to protect the privacy of residents using it. They did say it's a former hotel on the north side of Columbus. says Twenty volunteers with the county's Medical Reserve Corps will being working 8-hour shifts at the new shelter beginning Wednesday morning according to Franklin County Public Health Commissioner Joe Mazzola.
"Our medical volunteers will take temperatures with no-touch thermometers as individuals come into the shelter and do a brief overview of what to expect," Mazzola said. "Our non-medical volunteers will perform various housekeeping and operational tasks that will support the shelter as well."
Mazzola says the MRC still needs a few more volunteers. Additional information can be found at the Franklin County Public Health website. The CSB's Heritage said there are about 15 homeless individuals being tested or exhibiting likely symptoms of COVID-19. She's not sure how many will be moving into the hotel, but having that space along with the YMCA's Long Street location as a social-distancing shelther for homeless - gives the CSB flexibility to respond quickly to additional cases.
"The number of residents in total that are going to need social distancing type shelters are 600 just to get people apart," Heritage said. "That's also accounting for folks becoming newly homeless. The folks needing isolation and quarantine because they are COVID positive or have symptoms are about 372 people. Going forward, we will be using various kinds of different facilities that could include college dorms, recreation centers, and other kinds of congregate and separate settings."
To help on the food side, the Mid-Ohio Foodbank's Matt Habash announced the foodbank will partner with Two Caterers, which recently rebranded itself as Together and Company.
"We're buying the food, and they're going to prepare the meals and deliver them to the site," Habash said. "With that private-public partnership, I believe we can take care of the food needs. The last thing we need any of the shelter folks doing is worrying about food. We're running about 25 to 30 percent higher in terms of all the food distribution. We're blessed to have a 100 national guard helping us. We have ordered already $1.3 million of food to tie us over until the federal food starts to show up."
Habash expects the federal food to arrive in 60 to 90 days. He says most of the foodbank's pantries - and all of the large ones - are still open.