After first freeze of season, packed KC shelters stay mindful of COVID-19

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KANSAS CITY, Mo. — With Kansas City’s first snow of the season Monday and more freezing conditions expected overnight- the area homeless population packed into shelters.  Those shelters have to take special precautions due to the pandemic.

At the downtown properties managed by City Union Mission, staff estimated about 400 people were housed Monday night, roughly 75% of the homeless population downtown.

Staff checked the temperatures of people as they came in to get out of the cold Monday.

“I know people who actually have caught the COVID-19, and that’s why it’s kind of serious to me,” said Andre William, who stayed there Monday night.  “I like to kind of have my distance and enter places that keep a good eye out for COVID-19.”

William and upwards of 200 others spent the night at the men’s shelter.  The 38-year-old says he has been living on the streets of Kansas City for years.

“They got a nice, warm, comfortable place for you to get used to,” William said.

The pandemic has presented challenges for the staff here, like spacing out beds.  Although the Chief Development Officer, Dennis Chapman says with their large space, it has not hurt their overall capacity.

Chapman says new visitors have to quarantine if they haven’t stayed here recently, and they have had to turn people away as they have only limited medical services.

“There have been those that we have to send to either Truman Medical Center or to the hospital downtown, and so we don’t treat them here, we have to say, ‘No, you can’t come in tonight,” Chapman said.

Chapman said of the hundreds who have stayed here, the number of positive cases is somewhere in the 20s.

For William, he says he feels much safer here than outside in the frigid temperatures.

“I have been out in these conditions before,” William said.  “You just have to find a place that’s comfortable and warm with a nice meal to eat in the morning.”

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