LUBBOCK, Texas — Lubbock’s homeless shelters have seen an increase in occupants since the start of the coronavirus, and both Open Door and Grace Campus are taking preventative measures to make sure Lubbock’s homeless population is safe from the virus.
James Dehart is a homeless man who frequently visits Open Door and is working to get back on his feet.
“There are some days where you just want to quit and stop, and it’s just like—is it even worth it?” Dehart said. “When you don’t have anything or anyone to help it’s like really really really hard.”
But while finding a job was difficult before the pandemic, Dehart said it is even harder now.
“Trying to set up interviews is almost impossible. Trying to go fill out job applications where you can get to the job and it’s not online trying to figure out how to do their time schedule and your work schedule,” Dehart said. “And then [you have to] find a place to sleep and have time to shower. It can get chaotic and with this corona, it’s even worse.”
Dehart’s struggle is something Open Door CEO Chad Wheeler has seen reflected in the homeless community.
“A lot more people that have been laid off from work and don’t have any other place to go. Especially when things were shut down, this was one of the few places that people had left to go,” Wheeler said.
While finding a job is a major concern for people like Dehart, with case numbers high in Lubbock, staying healthy is also a priority.
At Grace Campus, they have a two-week mandatory quarantine for new applicants living in their housing, as well as other added measures.
“We serve all three meals here every day just to try and keep people on campus,” said Director of Grace Campus Chris Moore. “We have handwash stations throughout the campus, sanitizer bottles hung up everywhere. We want people to try and stay clean. We should be doing that anyway.”
Open Door is also taking the virus seriously and have instituted social distancing inside their community center and implemented other changes.
“We have been checking everyone’s temperature when they walk through the door, providing masks and checking for symptoms—that kind of thing,” Wheeler said.
But Wheeler said times like these put the homeless population at very high risk.
“We are impacted very much by the general public. People that are homeless live their lives for the most part in the public, so what the public is doing really impacts us a lot,” Wheeler said. “We have a lot of people with pre-existing conditions and in homelessness, we are always close to each other. Their risk is just more than it has been in the last few months.”
But Dehart hopes that the homeless and non-homeless population can beat the virus together.
“We can prevent it just as much as anyone else, but we have to take that on and that’s our responsibility as people—not just somebody else’s responsibility because we are homeless,” Dehart said.
While there has not yet been a case of the coronavirus within Lubbock’s homeless population, Open Door said it is expecting more people to come into the shelter if the job market does not improve.