wjxt logo

Jacksonville homeless shelters back to reduced capacity, screening, social distancing as COVID surges

COVID-19 Shelter Task Force creates isolation facility for positive COVID patients, those released from hospitals

City Rescue Mission
City Rescue Mission (WJXT)

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – As the coronavirus resurgence, driven by the delta variant, continues to rage throughout Northeast Florida, homeless shelters in Jacksonville are responding by returning to 2020 protocols to protect staff and clients.

The city’s COVID-19 Shelter Task Force, a coalition of 13 local homeless service providers, is also implementing other measures as it prepares for a possible increase in cases among those experiencing homelessness in Jacksonville.

The Task Force has distributed rapid test kits to those who directly engage with people experiencing homelessness. If someone tests positive via the rapid test and they do not have symptoms, a PCR test is recommended. On-site testing for people experiencing homelessness is now available at Sulzbacher’s clinic (Monday through Friday, 8 a.m. to 1 p.m.), the Sulzbacher HealthMobile, and the Department of Health – Duval (Monday through Friday, 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.).

Individuals experiencing homelessness and staying at the various shelters will also have access to testing. Sulzbacher also offers walk-in vaccines at all of its clinics.

“We and other partners have already begun re-implementing the COVID-19 Shelter Protocols established in March 2020, such as reducing shelter capacity to 50%, screening everyone who enters and enacting social distancing measures, among many other actions,” said Cindy Funkhouser, President and Chief Executive Officer of Sulzbacher. “These measures are essential to the safety of our staff and those we serve, who do not have the ability to self-isolate in a safe, sheltered location.”

The Task Force has also established a new, temporary isolation facility for those who are confirmed positive for COVID-19 and who are discharged from local hospitals. At the isolation facility, one of the Task Force’s newest partners, Overflow Health Alliance, is providing on-site home health aides to support any non-emergency health care needs, while WeCareJax is providing telehealth visits. Mission House, WeCareJax, and Sulzbacher are also providing on-site case managers to provide additional support to temporary residents, and Goodwill is providing deep-clean services upon a client’s departure from the facility.

“We are grateful for the additional partners who have joined us in this renewed effort, particularly those who are providing health care services and case management support,” said Carina Saladino, Executive Director of Mission House. “To be able to wrap much-needed health care and additional support services around those experiencing homelessness during a time of tremendous vulnerability and need is essential to helping them get back on their feet.”

The Task Force is meeting regularly again and will evaluate the performance and effectiveness of the Shelter Protocol and make changes as needed.

“The Shelter Task Force has proven the power of collaboration and how swiftly our community can come together to support our community’s most vulnerable citizens,” said Dawn Gilman, Chief Executive Officer of Changing Homelessness, the lead agency for the COVID-19 Shelter Task Force. “The model we collectively created last year with the Shelter Protocol provided a structure that we can implement quickly and efficiently, yet adjust as necessary to current circumstances. We would also like to acknowledge the support of the Jessie Ball duPont Fund as they have been an active participant and financial supporter of this effort.”

About the Author:

A Jacksonville native and proud University of North Florida alum, Francine Frazier has been with News4Jax since 2014 after spending nine years at The Florida Times-Union.