Fort Wayne nonprofit groups for a month have been quietly operating a regional quarantine shelter for those with COVID-19-related conditions who do not have safe and stable housing, organizers said Tuesday.
The disclosure came in an announcement that the city had received $1.7 million in emergency funding from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development to address pandemic-related needs.
The project will receive $200,000 of those funds and work with clients in nine counties in northeast Indiana, said Matthew Purkey, president and chief executive officer of United Way of Allen County, the project's lead agency.
The shelter is designed for those with COVID-19 symptoms, those without symptoms who test positive, and those who have been exposed to the virus who should be isolated according to health guidelines but can't just go home, he said.
Clients could be homeless or living in a homeless shelter, but they also might be facing eviction, living with other people or not be able to return to an unsafe situation, such as domestic violence, organizers said. Referral by a health care or social service agency is required.
“We don't know of any others like this. We know others are available (elsewhere), but we wanted to do this with the full dignity of our clients,” Purkey said.
Other quarantine shelters may have been set up in places like school gyms and tents, he said, but this one is in a multistory existing building. Clients will have their own room with a bathroom and television. Cellphones are allowed, he said.
Organizers are not disclosing the location of the shelter for security reasons pertaining to the staff, cooperating agencies and clients, Purkey said.
He said clients are provided with new clothing, hygiene products, three meals a day, medications and care for their pets through the Allen County SPCA if needed. Patients are monitored around the clock by medical personnel and can be moved to a hospital should their condition worsen.
Men will be housed on a different floor than women, and the facility is set up to house just under 100 people, he said. Purkey could not say how many are living there now but said the program is designed to handle stays of around 14 days, the standard quarantine. Patients will be tested before they return to the community, he said.
A hotline and website screening system are being set up.
Mary Tyndall, Fort Wayne community development spokeswoman, said the facility was put together by an ad hoc group of people and representatives of agencies involved with the homeless who agreed that a COVID-19 quarantine shelter was a priority need.
Fort Wayne received the money under the recent federal CARES Act, she said. The city typically gets additional federal housing allocations based on the proportion of residents facing poverty, she said.
She said recipients of the money did not need to be approved by any city governing body but the receipt of the allocation was approved by the city's Office of Housing and Neighborhood Services board.
In a statement, Mayor Tom Henry said the recipients of the grants represent community efforts to pull together and help neighbors in need,
“These much-needed federal dollars will be put to work quickly to help ensure residents have a safe place to sleep at night, as well as provide our shelters with critical supplies,” he said.
Other programs funded by the grant:
• A temporary shelter for homeless women without addictions. Just Neighbors and the Interfaith Homeless Network have been seeing an increased number of homeless women since the pandemic and will receive $60,000 to provide immediate shelter, meals and case management. The Lutheran Foundation is fiscal agent.
• Emergency housing. Brightpoint will receive a $60,000 grant to provide hotel vouchers, case management and meals for individuals and families experiencing homelessness without other options for shelter.
• Deep cleaning and sanitizing. Blue Jacket will receive about $50,000 to conduct those services for homeless shelters and nonprofit organizations.
• Personal protective equipment and supplies. The city has already purchased and delivered 24 cases (288 bottles) of hand sanitizer to area shelters and will also be providing sanitizer and masks to local nonprofits.