TRI-CITIES, Tenn. (WJHL) As the coronavirus continues to spread across the United States, health officials say the homeless face a higher risk of exposure.
Due to common health issues and also the nature of having nowhere to self-isolate, the homeless pose a risk to themselves and also the general public concerning COVID-19.
Compassion is first on the minds of local nonprofits that are working round the clock to make sure the most vulnerable are taken care of during a nationwide pandemic.
“We’ve had to modify a lot of operations. Social distancing, we are wearing gloves, we are making sure we are cleaning and bleaching different high impact spaces,” says Pai Mushayamunda, Chief Operations Officer of Good Samaritan Ministries in Johnson City.
Nonprofits are in a race to respond to help those who are the most at risk during the coronavirus outbreak.
“The homeless and the elderly are the most vulnerable in this time,” says Mushayamunda.
In light of this- their work does not stop; it just changes.
“We are doing drive by food or to-go food boxes. We are asking churches to bring packed lunches. We have home-bound deliveries for seniors,” says Mushayamunda.
In Kingsport, Shades of Grace is usually buzzing during the week with more than 100 homeless people and volunteers packing the church during the day. Now, it is empty.
“It’s really strange for us, it’s almost apocalyptic in a way,” says Pastor Will Shewey.
To prevent the spread of the virus among the homeless community, the church decided to close their doors. But, they are not turning people away.
“We have instituted some emergency changes and we are now feeding our people at the edge of the back alleyway. The church of Jesus Christ never closes, and the needs never cease,” says Shewey.
For the pastor, the concern is still there that these efforts are not enough.
“We are not allowing folks to gather in here so my concern is for them, where will they go?” asks Shewey.
Good Samaritan is also worried that the homeless are not able to practice the guidelines posted by the CDC for staying safe from the coronavirus.
“The homeless don’t have a home, the homeless don’t have health health insurance. They have lots of pre-existing conditions and illnesses,” says Mushayamunda.
Right now, these local ministries and many others are doing the best they can to take the outbreak one day at a time.
“We are trusting and relying on God to continue to provide, because we are called to continue to serve,” says Mushayamunda.
Each organization is continuing to help every person they can, even through this confusing time.
“We’ve never seen this before, this is something different for all of us. We are all facing the unknown but we are gonna get through it because God is with us,” says Shewey.
These local ministries are in desperate need of donations to keep serving the homeless and the at-risk during this pandemic. They ask for donations of non-perishable food items, and cleaning supplies like hand sanitizer, Lysol, Clorox wipes and soap.
To make a monetary donation to Good Samaritan Ministries, visit their website.
To help Shades of Grace, visit their Facebook Page for information. The church will continue to serve meals 6 days a week to the homeless.