COVID, cold temps present homeless shelters with whirlwind of challenges
The combination of cold temperatures and COVID-19 are presenting a whirlwind of challenges for homeless shelters.
Lifting up Westchester in White Plains serves over 3,000 people a year. Shelter officials say the number has remained steady due to the state's eviction moratorium, but COVID-19 and the bitter cold are causing immediate issues.
Between staff shortages due to quarantines, COVID capacity limits and health protocols among those who look for help, the system is strained top to bottom.
"We used to be able to house 17 in our drop-in but because of COVID and following the CDC recommendations, we had to drop that to 14 to keep people 6 feet apart," says Carlos Permell, the Lifting Up Westchester shelter services director. "When it gets bitterly cold, we can get to a max of 25 people - that's when we're really at an overload."
The shelter also says it aims to work on the root of many issues that people face, including gathering resources to help find jobs and affordable housing.