CINCINNATI (WKRC) - Representatives from area shelters and the homeless coalition held a news conference Tuesday afternoon calling on the need for necessary funding and resources to help those in poverty maintain social distancing during the COVID-19 pandemic.
“It is impossible inside of our shelter settings to practice social distancing,” Josh Spring, executive director for Greater Cincinnati Homeless Coalition, said. “The reality that we are dealing with if or when this virus makes its way into one of our shelters, we fear that it will quickly spread through our folks and emanate to the broader community.”
Speakers at Tuesday’s press conference called on the general public and businesses to make funds available and to donate or discount hotel rooms and other private living quarters. They also called on universities and colleges to make student living quarters with private restrooms available.
“As this crisis developed over the past week or two, we were finding that safety that we normally create for parents and children was ebbing away,” Stacy Burge, executive director for Interfaith Hospitality Network of Greater Cincinnati, said.
With the fear of spreading the virus, the goal for these leaders is to get those without homes into single rooms, but the funds to do that add up.
“We need approximately 1,000 rooms; a thousand rooms with individual bathrooms,” Spring said. “These could be hotel rooms; these could be rooms on university campuses. We need the general public to donate rooms or discount rooms.”
Spring said to get 1,000 hotel rooms for two weeks would cost $1.2 million.
In the news conference, it was said 212 people meet the criteria as “high risk,” meaning they will be prioritized first to get into a hotel room.
A mother of four said she is one of the lucky ones who was living in an area shelter that has since been moved to a hotel.
“It’s been a long time since we’ve actually had a place,” the mother said. “When we got to this hotel, it made me reunite with my children because, like I said, I was going to sleep every night without my kids because they were at my mom's house because I didn’t want them there.”
Shelter leaders said if they don’t get the necessary funds, the fight to stop the spread of this dangerous virus will become far more difficult.
“If we don’t get the funds to do this, to get out most vulnerable inside of shelters and get everybody else inside of shelters into hotel rooms to keep our families in a hotel room, if we don’t get the funds to do that, the true answer is we don’t know what we will do,” Spring said.