Local shelters collaborating to find the homeless new homes during pandemic

LA CROSSE, Wis. (WKBT) – Even during a pandemic, homelessness is a problem and many homeless people are at an increased risk of being exposed to COVID-19.

Catholic Charities Warming Center and the Salvation Army are working together to find them a home.

Mary Richmond’s one goal is to find a suitable home.

“I left an abusive situation in Michigan to come back here,” Richmond said, who stays at Catholic Charities Warming Center.

Staying at the warming center wasn’t her first option, but the pandemic said otherwise.

“I was able to move in for surgery,” Richmond said. “But that all got cancelled. I was about to stay with someone, but that didn’t work out.”

Richmond has been staying at the warming center for almost two months.

“We do our best with staff and volunteers to not only work with them on business things during the day, so getting connected to jobs and services, but also make sure that they have recreational activities,” Coulee Collaborative to End Homelessness project manager Julie McDermid said.

“It’s not like we’re cooped up inside 24/7,” Richmond said. “You know, we do get out in the yard, have fresh air, shoot some baskets.”

But only so many people are allowed in shelters at once right now.

McDermid says she encourages those without a home to socially distance.

“We have healthcare staff going out there and checking on people to make sure people are getting medical care, medications, that kinda thing,” McDermid said.

Perhaps the coalition’s most important goal is getting those in the shelter a new home, something Richmond has found starting next month.

“It’s gonna be weird when I get my own place because I’m gonna be by myself,” Richmond said.

And if she needs help again, Richmond says she won’t hesitate to contact the warming center.

“I know that they’ll be there for me,” Richmond said. “They’re just a phone call away.”

McDermid says anyone who leaves the warming center is not allowed back in because of the pandemic.

The warming center usually holds 49 people but that number is significantly less right now.