Homeless services grapple with COVID-19 safety as cold weather creeps in

Problems associated with the pandemic and frigid temperatures push organizations to think creatively, so no one freezes to death.
Published: Feb. 3, 2021 at 6:13 PM CST
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ROCKFORD, Ill. (WIFR) - As temperatures drop, concerns rise in homeless shelters grappling with COVID-19 safety.

“I get wrapped up and get into a corner, where the wind is not blowing on me,” said Gregory Edwards.

Before reaching out to the Rockford Rescue Mission, Gregory Edwards spent 3 years sleeping under bridges, in abandoned buildings and in alleyways, even when it was snowy and temperatures dropped below zero.

“It’s bad. It’s not good,” Edwards said. “But you have to do what you have to do.”

There are hundreds of people in the area who live on the streets, just like Edwards. Mike Hedrick is the Mission’s Homeless Services Director, and he said this year is more difficult than others as they deal with a growing population and a pandemic.

“If we go over our capacity right now, which has been reduced since COVID, that we can go into our great room, and we have the ability to put 40 extra bunks in our great room,” said Hedrick.

City of Rockford Homeless Program Director, Angie Walker, said exposure to the elements kills people staying outside, and constantly looks for services to help.

“It’s possible that if the shelters and the warming centers get to their capacities they would have to turn people away,” said Walker.

But if that were to happen, Walker and Hedrick said they will go the extra mile to find solutions.

We’re not going to have people out in the cold because of COVID regulations,” said Walker. “We definitely will make every attempt to get people sheltered.”

Local shelters like Rockford Overnight Café, Rockford Rescue Mission and Carpenter’s Place in Rockford will provide services and warmth for those trying to escape the cold. If you see unsheltered people in the community, call the homeless hotline at 844-710-6919 ext. 5.

Rockford Overnight Café. Daily, 8 p.m. to 7 a.m. 318 N. Church St.

Rockford Rescue Mission. 24 hours a day. 715 West State Street

Carpenters Place. Weekdays, 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. 1149 Railroad Avenue

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