Shelters struggling to provide for Capital Region homeless in midst of COVID-19 pandemic

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TROY, N.Y. (NEWS10)- Homeless shelters in the Capital Region have been hit hard from measures being taken to prevent further spread of the coronavirus. Lack of space, food, supplies, mental health/addiction services, and staff/volunteers have shelters struggling to help the state’s most vulnerable population.

“It’s not just our shelter, it’s all shelters in the Capital District,” says Kevin O’Connor, executive director at Joseph’s House in Troy. “We’re all suffering, we all have the same problems.”

He says local shelters are working together to come up with solutions in a complex and fragmented system that varies in each county. O’Connor says they’ve had to find new food sources, shut down their volunteer system and deal with an increase in behavioral issues among their residents due to lack of mental health and addiction services.

O’Connor says the stress related to the coronavirus pandemic is getting to residents already dealing with emotional traumas. Two-thirds of the nearly 300 people who rely on Joseph’s House for housing have mental health disorders or have been diagnosed with a mental health problem in the past.

Many homeless in the Capital Region are also individuals with pre-existing health conditions making them more at risk to catch the coronavirus. O’Connor says these individuals are nervous about living in close quarters at shelters, leading to an increase in homeless living on the streets.

He says his workforce is also anxious and facing added family pressure from the state shutdown. O’Connor says staff members are unable to work because they are taking care of children who are out of school, elderly and immune-compromised family members or facing quarantine for exposure to people with the coronavirus.

Despite all the challenges associated with COVID-19, O’Connor says Joseph’s House and other local shelters are doing their best to flatten the curve and prevent the spread of the virus by monitoring resident’s temperatures and increased cleaning.

Joseph’s House is accepting food, face masks, and hand sanitizer donations. O’Connor says there are a number of people already making masks for Joseph’s House including the MoonCatcher Project, who turned its focus towards making face masks after losing the ability to send reusable menstrual products to girls in poor countries because of the coronavirus pandemic. O’Connor says he understands homemade masks do not protect as well as an N95 mask but welcomes the donations saying, “At least we’ll have protection from the largest droplets.”

The shelter is also in need of sandwiches to deliver to unsheltered homeless locally. Those who would like to drop off sandwiches for unsheltered homeless can email Andrew Barnes abarnes@josephshousetroy.org.

O’Connor says the best donation people can give is money through individual shelter websites. To make a donation to Joseph’s House via PayPal click here.

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