Cold weather shelter opens with ‘modifications’
CHATTANOOGA, Tenn. (WDEF) – As flurries fell outside Monday night, around 20 people line up in front of the community kitchen seeking heat inside this warming shelter.
“This is how we’re going to be able to create a life-saving opportunity for people to get out of the cold. We’ve had to set up with some modifications this year,” Chattanooga Community Kitchen COO Dr. Jimmy Turner said.
The cold weather shelter at the community kitchen opened at 7 p.m. on Monday and for the first time while in the coronavirus pandemic.
This year, because of the pandemic, the community kitchen implemented changes that included adding barriers that block out rows where folks will be able to rest.
“People will be able to stay and have something as a partition between them to help prevent any possible spread,” Turner said.
Turner said that they’ll be sanitizing the shelter every morning and through the health department they’re providing rapid COVID testing.
He said that they’ll know who has been tested by a green wristband they’ll be wearing.
“If they don’t have the green wristband, because maybe the health department has already left, we’ll have a special area for those people to sleep just so we can make sure that people who haven’t been screened aren’t being put with the people who have been screened,” Turner said.
This is something the Chattanooga Regional Homeless Coalition has been planning for.
Executive Director Wendy Winters said that since the start of the pandemic they’ve been meeting weekly with their community partners.
“We’re doing the best we can to get through the winter without a major flu or COVID outbreak, but we’re also not going to turn anyone away. We’re going to make sure they’re safe from the winter elements,” she said.
Winters said that if someone tests positive for COVID they’ll do their best to keep them separated with alternative shelter.
“Depending on the time of night that they present that may look differently, but yes, again, we will do everything we can to keep the sick and well separated,” she said.
Winters said that in addition to the congregant shelter at the community kitchen, they also have non-congregant shelter.
“We have the congregant shelter at the community kitchen, and then we also have non-congregant shelter to help decompress the congregant shelter, and we put those most at risk for COVID complications in that non-congregant, hotel-like shelter,” she said.
Winters said that because of the pandemic, this year, the warming shelter will only be open on freeze nights.
Folks get can get updates on when the shelter will be open be texting “Winter Shelter” to 97779.
Winters said that the community kitchen will place a flag out in front of their building to let people know when the cold weather shelter is open.