Siena Francis House prepares for winter amid increased COVID-19 cases

Posted at 6:25 PM, Nov 30, 2020
and last updated 2020-11-30 19:37:55-05

OMAHA, Neb. (KMTV) - As temperatures drop, Douglas County homeless shelters are gearing up for their first full winter in a pandemic.

Chris Knauf, Chief Development Officer at Siena Francis House, says the homeless shelter reported just 12 positive COVID-19 clients from March through October.

However come November, the virus was widespread.

“The positivity rates really impacted our ability to provide the services that we need to provide to those in Omaha experiencing homelessness," Knauf said.

The shelter was forced to section off entire wings of their emergency shelter to account for large scale quarantine units.

In return, it left them with less space.

“There have been times when we have not been afforded the opportunity to do intakes at the level we are normally accustom too,” Knauf said.

Very little is known on how the homeless population is keeping up during this pandemic.

The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, which overlooks homeless programs, has not released any infection or death data on homeless victims throughout the pandemic.

On top of that, a moratorium on evictions from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention ends at the end of December, meaning more people could be homeless by the middle of winter.

Knauf says it has been a lot to navigate, and their main goal is to keep everyone warm, fed and safe from the virus.

“Whether or not they are getting enough food, whether or not they are getting proper clothing… those are all items and services that we are able to afford or able to provide to people who need it," Knauf said.

Siena Francis House is always taking financial contribution, as well as linens, toiletries and food donations.

Siena Francis House is one of the many area non-profits taking donations tomorrow as part of Giving Tuesday.

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