Groups serving homeless work to stop spread of COVID-19 in vulnerable populations

Hope Faith Ministries outreach.png
Hope Faith Ministries outside.png
Posted at 4:32 PM, Mar 25, 2020
and last updated 2020-03-25 19:36:53-04

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Hope Faith Ministries began operating outside Wednesday as part of a community effort with a different organizations to make sure the homeless community is safe amid the COVID-19 outbreak.

But the shift to emergency operations happened sooner than Hope Faith Ministries expected.

"What we were forecasting for 30 days out is now happening on day one," Hope Faith Ministries Executive Director Jaysen Van Sickle said. "Families, senior citizens are coming to us for community resources, so now we’re having to evolve into a greater need."

Van Sickle said about 10 families with children recently came in need services, which is not normal.

Hope Faith has become a hub where multiple agencies are working together to serve more people, accepting large food donations every day and distributing that food to other groups with a need.

Tents are set up with tables where 50 people at a time can sit, maintaining proper distance in accordance with Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines, as they eat a meal.

Guests still have to go through security and check in at the welcome table.

"They can still get mail, they can still get a shower, still do all the things that they need to do, that way the staff can do what they do but with more of an open-air environment," Van Sickle said.

The Veterans Community Project shifted its outreach services to Hope Faith, but continues to accept donations at its community center near East 89th Street and Troost Avenue.

"It’s really important to operate as one cohesive unit, because it’s the only way we’re going to actually get through this," Veterans Community Project Director Josh Henges said. "We all have things that other organizations may need, and we all have talents. If we’re serving this population together with no distinction, we actually have a chance."

It was never a question of if someone these groups serve would get coronavirus, but more a matter of when — and that's already happened.

A man known in the homeless community recently tested positive for COVID-19, but he left the hospital. Outreach groups want to locate him to offer help.

"A homeless individual out on the street, they’re going to interact with a lot of people, a lot of things, and we know so far that coronavirus lingers," Henges said. "So, it’s really really important to find them and quarantine them as fast as possible."

Of course, that may be easier said than done, so the various organizations understand the need to work together.

"It’s difficult to keep a homeless individual in quarantine," Henges said. "Fourteen days, it’s not something they’re used to, a place they’re not used to. There’s harshness to the streets but one thing they often have is some freedom. When they lose the ability to choose, we’re going to get some resistance."

Hope Faith Ministries, Veterans Community Project and other organizations are working right now on phase two, with the expectation more people they serve will get sick.

That will mean an increasing need for beds and space.

"We're working with different partners to try to set up a mobile testing center as we speak and then working with other agencies to figure out how much space they have for quarantining," Van Sickle said.