BOISE – Corpus Christi Day Shelter closes its doors on Wednesday to slow the spread of COVID-19, but local nonprofits and the city of Boise have stepped up to fill the void.
Jodi Peterson-Stigers, Executive Director of Interfaith Sanctuary, said that her shelter and her nonprofit Astegos have partnered to temporarily occupy the Corpus Christi shelter for limited use. Peterson-Stigers said they applied to the city of Boise for $ 15,000 to pay the staff to run the facility for 30 days so that the homeless could still have a place to use the bathroom going to shower and check their mail during the ongoing public health crisis.
“Corpus Christi is the only place where someone who doesn’t live in a shelter has access to laundry and shower, especially when hygiene is that important,” said Peterson-Stigers. “(Postal Service) is the link between our homeless people and the outside world, and without that mail, keeping in touch to get someone out of homelessness will cause a lot of problems.”
Marc Schlegel-Preheim, board member of Corpus Christi House, called the decision to make a “very hard, painful” decision. He said while they understand the services they provide are necessary, they have struggled keeping the facility open due to a lack of volunteers available at the facility. There were also concerns about how the small space on the shelter’s back patio is preventing social distancing.
“We’ve talked a lot about how just being open leads to about 60 people gathering,” he said. “Even though it’s outside, they’re still pretty close together and it seems like we’re trying to take different measures to keep people apart, but we only have that much space.”
Peterson-Stigers said her proposal to the city would be Interfaith Sanctuary, and Astegos would rent the day care home and staff it to keep up with the day-to-day operations that Corpus Christi had already been performing. Residents have been individually admitted to use the toilet, shower and check the mail to prevent the spread of COVID-19, but the terrace remains open. Temperature checks are also done to see if guests are experiencing symptoms.
The catering service for breakfast and lunch will be moved to the rear of the Interfaith Sanctuary instead of Corpus Christi. She said the shelter is still working with the Boise Rescue Mission to separate guests with symptoms from the rest of the population who are staying at the shelters because they have more space.
The proposal was not formally adopted by the city and details are to be announced, but Boise City spokeswoman Karen Boe was optimistic about the possibility.
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“We continue to work with community partners to find ways to protect our most vulnerable populations and hope to take some specific action tomorrow,” she said on Monday. “We are committed to ensuring that there is no service gap.”
Corpus Christi is an important lifeline for many residents of the Interfaith Sanctuary, Boise Rescue Mission, and those who sleep outside. Karen Cleveland, a recent guest at Interfaith Sanctuary, said the loss of the day care home would be “total devastation” for the homeless community.
“There’s nowhere to go in this city,” she said. “The buses are limiting their services, closing places where you can’t even use the bathroom or fetch water. Main Street Station won’t let people sit there anymore. (Without Corpus Christi) We would literally just be out on the street, nowhere to go to the bathroom without water. “
Another shelter guest, Don Weiss, said homeless people now can’t even go to the parks to use the toilet or drink water because the city hasn’t opened them and turned on the water after they’ve been closed all winter .
“Many homeless people are already complaining that parks have to open bathrooms so they can have drinking water so they don’t become dehydrated,” Weiss said.