Access to COVID-19 care for those experiencing homelessness


FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. (KNWA/KFTA) — People experiencing homelessness are vulnerable to catching and spreading the coronavirus to others.

Area Commander for the Salvation Army of Northwest Arkansas, Captain Joshua Robinett said staff is taking every precaution to keep everyone safe and making sure they have access to care.

Robinett said responding to the coronavirus has its challenges but is similar to dealing with emergency disasters. The Salvation Army has a plan in place and is taking no risks.

Robinett said the biggest needs have been for food boxes and financial assistance to pay rent.

The facility went from serving 80 food boxes a month to 4,600 in the past 8 weeks. Dozens of people also sleep at the shelter every night.

Robinett said the practices the staff is following at the overnight shelters have helped reduce the spread of the virus.

Every guest is screened, asked to use masks and hand sanitizer provided by the shelter, and beds are separated with shower curtains.

So far, there’s been only one positive COVID-19 case in late April which Robinett said was contained.

“We immediately set up a testing clinic onsite in conjunction with some folks out of Washington Regional and the department of health and we tested everybody including some staff.”

All of the other tests came back negative. If anyone is showing symptoms they are directed to Washington Regional’s urgent care on Appleby road.

The shelter has rooms for isolation available and staff work closely with the ADH to provide lodging for quarantine.

He said self-care for staff is also a priority so they can sustain the work they are doing.

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