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How Cincinnati Plans To Assist The Homeless During COVID-19 Crisis

A temporary shelter space at the Over-the-Rhine Recreation Center to provide housing for homeless individuals experencing COVID-19 symptoms.
Courtesy of
City of Cincinnati
A temporary shelter space at the Over-the-Rhine Recreation Center to provide housing for homeless individuals experencing COVID-19 symptoms.

Cincinnati is taking steps to help people experiencing homelessness protect themselves from COVID-19. That includes setting up a facility at the Over-the-Rhine Recreation Center to help with overflows from shelters that may not be able to provide isolation areas. 

City officials outlined the plans during a press briefing Tuesday afternoon.

"The rec centers are for individuals who are exhibiting signs and symptoms and need to be on self-monitoring isolation for 14 days," said City Health Commissioner Melba Moore.

City Manager Patrick Duhaney said the city had been working with several agencies on the issue. He said many of the homeless shelters in the city have the ability to do preventative things like social distancing, and some can provide isolation. But not all have that capacity.

"When a health care provider has identified someone as homeless and they need to be quarantined or isolated, they're going to get in contact with the health department," Duhaney said. "And that's going to trigger us to activate and figure out a way how we can get that person here to the OTR Rec Center and provide transport and hold them here to allow them to be quarantined with dignity. And not have to be quarantined somewhere on the street but to help them maintain their dignity as they traverse a very difficult situation."

City Recreation Director Daniel Betts said officials with his department were happy to help accommodate the shelter at the OTR Rec Center.

"We stand ready with the rest of the city to continue to try and do the very best that we can during this pandemic to make sure that all our residents, particularly our residents who are finding themselves most vulnerable, whether it's seniors, young people, or in this case, folks who are finding themselves homeless, CRC and the city stands ready to support you in any way we can," Betts said.

Interact for Health provided $10,000 for the facility, and the American Red Cross furnished some supplies.

Meanwhile, Moore was asked if she expects an increase in local COVID-19 cases with more hospitals offering drive-thru testing.

"We will probably see an increase in numbers," Moore said. "However, what will contain and maybe slow that process down is that individuals will have to telephone and schedule an appointment to go through those tents."

Residents who believe they may be experiencing COVID-19 symptoms are asked to call their primary care providers first.  If you don't have a provider, you can call the city health department at 513-357-7462 or the Ohio Department of Health at 833-427-5634.

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Jay Hanselman brings more than 10 years experience as a news anchor and reporter to 91.7 WVXU. He came to WVXU from WNKU, where he hosted the local broadcast of All Things Considered. Hanselman has been recognized for his reporting by the Kentucky AP Broadcasters Association, the Ohio Society of Professional Journalists, and the Ohio AP Broadcasters.