Plan in place to protect Boulder County’s unhoused from COVID, but volunteers needed

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Photo by Bret Kavanaugh on Unsplash

Saturday, March 21, 2020

Boulder County has opened up a shelter specifically for unhoused residents who may fall ill due to the spread of coronavirus in the community. The East Boulder Rec Center, now closed to the public, will serve as the new COVID-19 Recovery Center (CRC), officials announced Friday.

The approach is a joint effort of Longmont, Boulder and Boulder County. Homeless individuals will be screened at all shelters before entry; if symptomatic, they will be transported to the CRC.

“There are challenges (the unhoused) face that the rest of community has an easier time with,” said Boulder’s Director of Housing and Human Services Kurt Firnhaber during a Monday emergency meeting of city council. 

“Social distancing is more difficult,” he said. “Their general health is not as good.”

And while those with houses can follow orders to stay at home, away from other people, unhoused residents don’t have that option. The CRC, which opened Friday, is meant to fill that role.

“The intent of the CRC is to replicate the experience that an individual would have if diagnosed positive for COVID-19 and directed to rest at home in isolation,” a city news release stated. “CRC is not a medical facility but a recovery facility to assist people through this illness.”

Boulder earlier this week shifted its homeless services around so that beds could be spaced further apart. Navigation services, previously housed at the severe weather shelter on 30th Street, were moved to Boulder Shelter for the Homeless.

That plan was proposed earlier this year as a means of consolidating services and focusing more resources to permanent housing, but was shelved due to council concerns. It may be revisited this year; the lease on the 30th Street facility expires in May.

The recent shuffling of services is temporary, according to city officials.

Boulder County Public Health will be overseeing isolation protocols at the CRC, according to the city. Personal protective gear (masks, gloves, gowns, etc.) have been procured for workers and volunteers, something Firnhaber said Monday was holding up the process.

Additional support will be provided by Mental Health Partners, Medical Reserve Corps, BCPH, along with staff from Longmont, Boulder and Boulder County “who are not currently assigned to designated tasks,” should they elect to help.

There are four positions that need filled at the CRC:

1) Screeners at each of the four shelters each evening from 4:30 to 9:30 p.m.

2) Drivers to transport individuals in passenger vans to the CRC from 4 to 10 p.m.

3) CRC staff to assist at the site, provide food, laundry, direction and general support to clients

4) CRC shift lead to manage check-in process, ensure shelter residents are booked rooms appropriately and staff are equipped with appropriate PPE, and manage main administration.

Because the recovery center will be open 24 hours a day, every day, volunteers will be needed to help with operations.

All volunteers need to be between the ages of 18 and 60 without chronic medical conditions such as diabetes, hypertension, cancer, lung and heart conditions. Volunteers also cannot be pregnant or regularly caring for or living with someone over the age of 60.

Interested community members can sign up at  countmein.bouldercolorado.gov/ or ow.ly/yhUj50yRkPJ. Those with questions should contact Margo Josephs at JosephsM@bouldercolorado.gov.

Anyone in need of Coordinated Entry should call 303-579-4404 during the following hours:

  • 10 a.m. – 4 p.m. every day except Tuesday
  • Noon – 4 p.m. on Tuesdays

For more information related to sheltering, visit bouldercolorado.gov/coronavirus-faqs.

— Shay Castle, boulderbeatnews@gmail.com, @shayshinecastle

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