By Jessica Costello | April 20, 2020 at 4:12 PM CDT – Updated April 20 at 4:12 PM
EVANSVILLE, Ind. (WFIE) – The coronavirus pandemic has affected how we all interact with each other every day, including homeless shelters.
“Just because of the nature of the pandemic itself is what made it different for us,” said Bill Myrick, a guest at United Caring Services.
United Caring Services functions on the goal of welcoming ones without a home with open arms. Now they have to figure out a way to do that from a distance.
“So, a thing that could destroy community and relationship is the very thing that people experience in this type of crisis need,” said Jason Emmerson, executive director at United Caring Services.
The pandemic has disrupted normal foot traffic at the shelter. Some of the guests say they’re used to seeing 80 people waiting for a meal, but now 30 people is a long line.
“There’s a lot more diverse group of people coming through the doors here now,” said Eric Smith, a guest at United Caring Services. “People that we haven’t seen before, and they’re just basically looking for the same thing. A good meal.”
Emmerson has implemented the six-foot rule for all the guests with X’s on the ground. He says he is requiring all the staff and volunteers to wear masks and gloves.
“Everyone understands this is for their safety and well-being,” Emmerson said. “I mean homeless people are particularly vulnerable. Often they’re stigmatized. They’re warehoused away. We don’t want to see them or know anything about them, but now, we want to make sure they’re safe. Because this could be a huge population where the virus could run rampant.”
With volunteers staying home, the guests have stepped up to help serve others.
“I don’t know that it’s so much important for me personally, but that it’s the need here that’s important,” Myrick said. “You know it’s funny, volunteers don’t come in but that doesn’t mean they still don’t support us.”
“Being able to serve the community in a time of crisis, it’s really rewarding,” Smith said.
Emmerson tells us there hasn’t been an issue with the virus inside of the shelter, but he does believe implementing the new safety precautions will help staff and guests in case of an outbreak.