CORONAVIRUS

Cedar Rapids overflow homeless shelter to stay open through April

Facility open 24/7; 5 new staffers hired

Volunteers set up cots in November at the overflow homeless shelter at the Fillmore Center in northwest Cedar Rapids. Li
Volunteers set up cots in November at the overflow homeless shelter at the Fillmore Center in northwest Cedar Rapids. Linn County supervisors on Monday decided to keep the shelter, scheduled to close Tuesday, open through the end of April. It typically closes during the day, but since public buildings are closed, it’s now open during the day, too. (Liz Martin/The Gazette)
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CEDAR RAPIDS — Willis Dady Homeless Services’ winter overflow shelter will stay open through the end of April, providing homeless clients a place to stay 24/7 during the coronavirus crisis.

The Linn County Board of Supervisors on Monday, meeting telephonically, approved extending the overflow shelter’s stay at the county-owned Fillmore Center, 520 11th St. NW, through next month.

The overflow shelter was supposed to close Tuesday.

Keeping the shelter open 30 more days will cost an estimated $24,000 to $30,000. The cost will be split 50-50 between Linn County and the city of Cedar Rapids.

“It’s critical people have a safe place to go while all the proper precautions are being implemented to ensure this virus doesn’t negatively impact that population of people,” Supervisor Ben Rogers said. “It’s really great and important (that) people who find themselves homeless during this pandemic have a place to go.”

The overflow shelter is practicing social distancing — keeping cots 6 feet apart — and good hygiene with the 50 male clients now staying there.

Waypoint’s Madge Phillips Center Shelter now is housing the 15 female clients who had been using the Willis Dady overflow shelter.

“We thought about the safety of everyone, and if we could minimize the amount of clients we have in this space, we wanted to do that to make more space for safe distancing,” said Denine Rushing, Willis Dady shelter manager.

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The overflow shelter hired five new staff members to cover the 24/7 operations. Three employees are there for each shift.

Staffers routinely ask clients if they feel sick and if they have a fever or cough. The shelter can arrange for clients to be seen at a clinic if needed and has the capacity to quarantine clients for 14 days.

No clients are showing signs of illness or had been tested for COVID-19 as of Monday afternoon.

“I think that shows how good the staff and clients have been working together to stay as safe as possible,” Rushing said. “With clients being here during the day, it eliminates them being out and about in the community and being exposed or exposing others.”

The shelter is disinfected every two to four hours, Rushing said, noting that work includes doorknobs, light switches, microwave handles, tables, countertops and restrooms.

The overflow shelter is working closely with the Salvation Army and Green Square Meals to provide food for clients.

Rushing said some clients have lost their jobs and having the shelter open an additional 30 days gives them time to get back on their feet again.

The overflow shelter is accepting donations of soap, disinfectant, hand sanitizer, gloves and masks. Items can be dropped off at the shelter or Willis Dady Homeless Services, 1247 Fourth Ave. SE, Cedar Rapids, between 9 a.m. and 7 p.m.

Comments: (319) 368-8664; grace.king@thegazette.com

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