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Northeast Ohio homeless shelters shift services in response to omicron

[Derrick Story / FLICKR]

The omicron variant of COVID-19 is causing homeless shelters and other organizations that work with the homeless to shift their services.

Before the pandemic, Operation HOMES in Medina County housed people in local churches, while working with them to find jobs and permanent housing. Board President Bruce Turner says the pandemic caused them to shift their services out of churches and into a motel. Vaccinations gave him hope they could move back into the churches, but “The current climate with the omicron and such, it doesn’t look like they will be opening back up to us anytime soon,” Turner said.

He says the organization is able to fund the extra costs for the motel thanks to grants and private donors. Before coming to the motel, guests receive a health screening which includes a COVID-19 test and a recommendation for the COVID-19 vaccine. Omicron is also causing Operation HOMES to lose volunteers.

Project Hope for the Homeless in Lake County runs a 50-bed shelter for adults, a family shelter and a transitional house for those older than 62. Grant and Communications Coordinator John Hutchinson says the shelter began housing some guests in a hotel at the beginning of the pandemic.

“With the recent outbreak, we’ve had to kind of reestablish that program, because we are starting to actually get a few guests who are testing positive for COVID. So, we had to kind of start that program at the hotel back up.”

Hutchinson says before omicron, only a few guests tested positive. He says their COVID-19 protocols, including frequent cleanings, mask requirements and social distancing, have been successful in stopping outbreaks.

Project Hope for the Homeless hosts the Lake County General Health District every two weeks for COVID-19 vaccine clinics. Hutchinson says the shelter has received grants to sustain the hotel program but says it is not long term.

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