LINK of Hampton Roads is gearing up for the winter.
The nonprofit has its Port Winter Shelter every year which provides overnight lodging for the Peninsula’s homeless, serving them a sit-down dinner and breakfast to-go during the cold months.
Like many nonprofits during the coronavirus pandemic, LINK of Hampton Roads could use some help.
“What our biggest need now…is nurses, who may be able to do fast tests if needed,” said Lynne Finding, the nonprofit’s executive director.
She’s referring to rapid coronavirus tests.
Finding added the nonprofit needs specifically LPNs and RNs and they have all of the equipment to run the COVID-19 tests for the people who come to the shelter.
LINK of Hampton Roads operations currently have not changed since March. For the PORT Shelter, Finding said the nonprofit has to “take it down to the bare bones and begin it all over again.”
“So our needs right now are for volunteers, just a couple at night helping check people in,” she said.
Those who cook will have “limited contact with the homeless.”
In fact, for the first 10 weeks of the PORT Winter Shelter, volunteers will put food on a distribution table where people can pick up the food and eat it in a heated tent.
The first three weeks Temple Baptist Church in Newport News will act as both a sleeping and eating site. After that time frame, the food and sleeping sites will be separate with transportation services.
The PORT Winter Shelter typically has the eating and sleeping sites at the same spot so why is this year different?
“It’s all because of COVID,” Finding said. “Instead of doing one week at each site, we are rotating every three weeks.”
Each site can accommodate 50 people. Once the shelter gets to capacity, they will open other sites.
So how does the nonprofit plan to ensure social distancing and other coronavirus safety measures?
Finding said a Newport News city worker, who is following CDC guidelines, was sent to the shelter site to make sure the space allows enough room for each of the shelter’s guests.
In addition, Finding noted the nonprofit has contracted with a company to fog and clean out the sites. There are foggers in the transportation vans, too. All of the sleeping mats will be sanitized by the cleaning crew and LINK plans to do laundry every day.
Other precautions include having HEPA filters in the sleeping quarters and requiring their guest to wear masks or face shields all the time, even when they sleep.
Finding said they have masks available and about 170 gallons of hand sanitizer to last them through the season. People using the winter shelter can leave their belongings in a locker at the Four Oaks Day Service Center, a city-run daytime shelter for the homeless.
“We’re limiting brining their baggage in,” Finding said. “So we’re asking the guests to travel light this year to come with just their coats and hygiene bags.”
Volunteers will give people plastic bags for their coats and other belongings. In the morning, people will get a breakfast bag and LINK will provide transportation to the Four Oaks Day Services Center and other stops in the city.
“I’m just really grateful for the churches, congregations that have come forward today,” Finding said. “It’s almost like disaster relief.”
Finding anticipates more people using the shelter this year.
“We know there is an approximately 110 in Newport News hotels and that’s without the Peninsula-wide [numbers],” she said. “Yeah, I anticipate many more than we’ve seen in the past.”
How to help
LINK of Hampton Roads currently needs the following:
- Intake volunteers to work from 6:30 p.m. to 9 p.m.;
- volunteers to cook or serve food (the dinner time and the breakfast to go meals);
- monetary donations for the nonprofit’s operations such as transportation;
- food donations in the form of non-perishable food items only.
For more information, visit the LINK of Hampton Roads website.
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