Created: December 18, 2020 09:00 AM
ALBUQUERQUE, N.M- When the pandemic first hit, a big concern for the City of Albuquerque was keeping the homeless safe. Now, during the winter months, city officials are seeing a big increase in people seeking shelter.
"When we look at our system of care, the Westside Emergency Housing Center (WEHC), these three wellness motels we've established, plus our two isolation hotels--we are serving close to 700 people on any given night just in that system of care,” said Lisa Huval, the deputy director of Housing and Homelessness for the City of Albuquerque. “That pretty much almost doubles what we were serving at the Westside Emergency Housing Center last winter.”
The WEHC shutdown following an outbreak in October. However, closing down for a few days during low temperatures is not an option.
“We actually have a very good process in place at the shelter to screen people for symptoms of COVID-19, also to identify as new folks come in if they meet criteria for COVID-19,” said Huval.
Huval explained the shelter has isolation spaces. But the WEHC isn’t operating at maximum capacity, which is about 450 people. Therefore, five hotels are being used as an extension to the shelter.
Two hotels are used for people to recover from COVID. The other three, which are described as “wellness” hotels, are used for non-COVID cases. People at high risk of catching the virus, like senior citizens, stay there and receive medical attention.
The shelter currently has 14 COVID cases, but Huval said they are still taking in new people.
Teams are also on the ground, informing homeless people about their options.
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