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No ‘social distancing’ at Denver homeless shelter as storm rolls in

"We’re right in the middle of it. And we can’t social distance either at the shelter."

DENVER, Colorado — People experiencing homelessness have already packed into The Denver Rescue Mission’s Lawrence Street shelter thanks to the closings of libraries and other public buildings. 

The storm moving into the metro area will ensure that many of those people stay overnight, sleeping in close-quarters, despite the COVID-19 outbreak.

“We can’t social distance either at the shelter. Our folks are right in the middle of it with people that are poor, homeless and needy,” said Denver Rescue Mission President and CEO, Brad Meuli of his staff, most of whom can’t work from home.

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The rapidly evolving COVID-19 outbreak has the shelter sanitizing on an hourly basis. It’s added hand washing stations and will pay close attention to any illnesses that may enter the front door, referring those people to medical facilities. But the shelter won’t be able to keep people six feet apart from each other.

“When it snows, yes, it gets cold, people will really be inside. Much more tightly packed. It’s a big concern for us,” said Meuli, acknowledging that many people utilizing shelters have already compromised immune systems.

He’s asked older employees, the population most at risk, to stay home. That move prompted about 200 people to submit applications to work. Meuli says some of them recently lost other jobs as the virus forced many businesses to close.

“It’s pretty humbling because these are folks willing to come into the fire because they need to put food on their table,” he said.

The Denver Rescue Mission put a pause on many of it’s services focusing only on it’s core ministries while COVID-19 moves through the state.

Denver Human Services closed all of it's facilities though some of it's more critical services like applying for benefits can still be done online or over the phone.