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Columbus Opening New Homeless Shelter For People With COVID-19

Downtown Columbus
Ryan Hitchcock

Columbus city officials on Tuesday announced plans for a new homeless shelter that will house people who have tested positive for the coronavirus.

Mayor Andrew Ginther says the current homeless shelter set-up could increase people’s risk for infection.

“Our shelters are not built for proper social distancing, the key to slowing the spread of COVID-19 in our community,” Ginther says.

That’s why city officials worked with the Community Shelter Board and YMCA Central Ohio plan to create a space for people who have tested positive for COVID-19 but don’t require hospitalization. The new shelter will also free up space in existing shelters to better implement social distancing.

“The YMCA, for example, turned its Long Street building into an additional men’s shelter to allow for appropriate social distancing,” Ginther notes.

Community Shelter Board executive director Michelle Heritage says it’s critical to provide a space for people who are showing signs of COVID-19, or who suspect exposure, to be able to stay somewhere they can avoid spreading it.

“The shelter we’re opening today is the first among a few that we will open,” Heritage says. “Anywhere from two or three additional may be needed.”

The shelter is financially backed by the city’s emergency fund. Columbus is not disclosing the location of the shelter to protect the privacy of those who will stay there.

Adora Namigadde was a reporter for 89.7 NPR News. She joined WOSU News in February 2017. A Michigan native, she graduated from Wayne State University with a B.A. in Broadcast Journalism and a minor in French.