Warming shelters plan pandemic protocols for upcoming season
FOX VALLEY, Wis. (WBAY) - This upcoming winter, warming shelters plan to provide for those in need, but not quite as usual. Many are adjusting how services are provided to keep people safe during the pandemic.
“It makes things very, very tough,” said Wilma Akright, Foundations for Living Executive Director.
Waupaca’s Foundations for Living Warming Shelter has already felt strain under the pandemic, going from 50 volunteers to just a handful.
“A lot of people are afraid to be volunteers, with good reason with the numbers increasing,” said Akright. “It’s just a scary time.”
Now Akright is figuring out the how to open the shelter in a pandemic.
“Biggest decision is volunteers being able to handle this and also capacity,” said Akright.
The small shelter is the only one in the area and provides no feasible location to quarantine someone with symptoms.
Akright anticipates having about 5 or 6 people stay in the shelter at a time, provided they can find enough volunteers.
She plans to partner with a hotel to help with overflow, though it will add extra expense, because other shelters in surrounding areas are completely full.
“What do you do when people have no other options,” said Akright.
Even in more urban areas like Oshkosh, shelters are making adjustments.
“Just like everybody and everything else COVID has thrown a little bit of a wrench into it,” said Day by Day Warming Shelter Director Molly Yatso Butz.
The Day by Day warming shelter isn’t decreasing capacity, but is following area hospital guidelines, requiring people in the shelter to wear masks and so on. The shelter has created a step-by-step flow chart to follow should anyone have COVID-19 symptoms or discover they may have been exposed to the virus.
“My job as executive director is to keep everybody healthy so having our staff and guests follow that plan and procedures is going to be absolutely necessary,” said Yatso Butz.
Yatso Butz says having additional summer hours this year helped prepare them for the upcoming overnight shelter, which is set to open Oct. 15.
Though this year’s winter season has extra challenges, both shelters know their service is a necessity.
“We’re all here to serve, we want to be open more than anything,” said Yatso Butz. “So we’re going to do what we can.”
“No matter what these are real people, real lives and we can’t just sit back and say ‘Okay, this is too hard I’m walking away,’” said Akright.
There are also some volunteer opportunities at the Day by Day Warming Shelter, visit its website for more information.
People can also help either organization with monetary or item donations.
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