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Mobile hygiene facility set up for Mid-Ohio Valley’s homeless

PARKERSBURG — Local groups have been working together to help keep the homeless safer during the pandemic.

While most people are told to stay home, frequently wash their hands and avoid contact with other people as much as possible, those guidelines aren’t possible for the homeless, according to Stacy DeCicco, executive director of the United Way Alliance of the Mid-Ohio Valley.

Groups are working on options for hygiene and laundry facilities since the House to Home Day Shelter is currently closed amidst the imposed restrictions, she said.

“We have been able this week to set up a mobile facility at the Salvation Army on Fifth Street. The unsheltered homeless can shower and wash their hands, all things that are typically accessible to them through the services of the day shelter,” DeCicco said. “We are working with the Mid-Ohio Valley Health Department to launch an effort to screen the homeless community for symptoms, as well.”

The Showers of Blessing shower unit will be available noon-4:30 p.m. Monday-Saturday through May 28. Those needing a shower will be asked to check in and depending on availability, time slots will be assigned to help the community practice social distancing.

Health Screenings will be offered to help assess the homeless for symptoms of the virus and will be referred to health care professionals as needed. Staff will be onsite to sanitize showers after each use and equipment will be provided for staff and volunteers to keep them safe. For more information or to reserve a shower time, contact the Salvation Army at 304-485-4529.

Outbreaks have occurred in homeless shelters in other parts of the country, Eric Walker, executive director of the Mid-Ohio Valley Health Department, said. The virus can quickly spread within and between congregate housing facilities, such as homeless shelters, he said.

“Screening for symptoms within the homeless population is one way to help prevent this from happening in our local communities,” Walker said. “The homeless do not have easy access to health care. This effort will help us assess a population that is often forgotten.”

The project would not have been possible without the collaborative efforts and cooperation of the Salvation Army, DeCicco said.

“Patrick and Carey (Richmond) have just been outstanding to work with through this process,” DeCicco said of the local commanders of the Salvation Army. “Their commitment to serve this vulnerable population is commendable, and their willingness to be great collaborators is so truly appreciated.”

The Salvation Army shelter offers respite to those in need of a place to stay and the organization is still offering dinner seven days a week to anyone in the community who needs a warm meal.

“When the need arose for a place to host showers, The Salvation Army was armed and ready to take it on,” said Maj. Carey Richmond. “We are honored to partner with the United Way Alliance of the Mid-Ohio Valley as well as the Mid-Ohio Valley Health Department to ensure that those most vulnerable have the availability of showers and handwashing stations to add one more layer of protection from the virus.”

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