Local Homeless Shelters 'All Full,' Bracing For Spread Of Coronavirus

Mar 23, 2020

“The reality is, our shelters are full,” said Joe Vazquez, the co-executive director of the Salt Lake City Mission. He said in the 23 years he’s worked with rescue missions to help the homeless, he’s been involved with disasters before, but never one so massive as this one surrounding the coronavirus pandemic — especially since it’s been compounded by the aftermath of last week’s earthquake.

And while there haven’t been any confirmed cases of the coronavirus in Utah’s homeless shelters, Judy Doud — the director for the Ogden Rescue Mission — said it’s only a matter of time.

“We’ve basically been warned that within the next you know, nine to 10 days we could very well start seeing them," Doud said. "Once it hits the homeless population, it will probably spread pretty fast. A lot of them have health issues from years of not really taking care of themselves properly, not eating correctly for many years. And so once that hits, they're gonna be hit pretty hard.”

But resources the shelters rely on, like cleaning and hygiene products, from toilet paper to paper towels, are in high demand for the general public, as well, according to Tricia Davis, who manages the Utah homelessness office with the Department of Workforce Services. In fact, some shelters have had to resort to making their own hand sanitizer.

“We are all frontline organizations helping to try to meet some of these critical needs because the government is just not going to be able to attend to the numbers of people that we're all dealing with and trying to meet their needs,” Vazquez said.

Without an increase in donations, both Doud and Vazquez said there are only enough resources at their shelters to continue service at the current level for the next 30 days or so.