COVID-19 screening at Interfaith Sanctuary

With the implementation of addtionall screenings in response to concerns over COVID-19, Jodi Peterson-Stigers checks the tempconerature of guests as they arrive at Interfaith Sanctuary in Boise, Monday, March 16, 2020. New screening criteria dictate that any guest with a temperature of 100.4 or greater wouild be sent to the Boise Rescure Mission.

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BOISE — For now, there are no confirmed cases of COVID-19 in either of Boise’s emergency homeless shelters.

Neither Interfaith Sanctuary or the Boise Rescue Mission has had any shelter guests test positive and there are no results pending. Although the shelters have taken different approaches to Gov. Brad Little’s stay-home order, both are taking in new residents and performing health screenings upon check-in.

“We have no one in isolation for the third straight day, meaning no one has been tested and waiting for results and we’ve had close to 30 people tested and not one has been a positive test,” Boise Rescue Mission CEO Bill Roscoe said. “We’re really, really grateful for that.”

Interfaith Sanctuary has testing on-site every day for residents showing symptoms through Family Medicine Residency of Idaho, which has completed seven tests. None of them have come back positive.

While guests at Interfaith Sanctuary are required to leave the shelter during the day, Boise Rescue Mission is requiring all of their guests who are not employed in an essential business to stay indoors throughout the day to comply with the stay-home order. Both shelters have had residents leaving to stay somewhere else due to fears of contracting COVID-19 in the close quarters of the shelter.

Boise Rescue Mission has been serving between 300 and 325 guests across it’s four shelters in Ada and Canyon counties. Interfaith Sanctuary only served 107 guests Thursday night, which is below its capacity of 130.

Jodi Peterson-Stigers, Interfaith Sanctuary’s executive director, said the warm temperatures are likely pushing those experiencing homelessness to choose to sleep outside of the shelter. She said this is not an issue for now as long as no encampments are forming because it keeps those experiencing homelessness apart and slows the potential spread of the disease.

“I’m not concerned if there is a single individual that has found a safe space to sleep and isn’t creating any harm,” she said. “If that is easier for them than moving into a shelter when they’re so scared, I get that. As long as they know we’re here to provide service through the day, how they choose to sleep as long as it’s not disruptive is not my concern.”

Boise Rescue Mission has a larger facility and room to isolate guests if they are waiting for test results or test positive, but Interfaith Sanctuary does not have as much space. Peterson-Stigers said there are plans in the works if a member of the homeless community does test positive, but did not share details Friday.

Anyone experiencing homelessness is able to stay on Interfaith Sanctuary’s property during the day for day shelter services or visit the nearby Corpus Christi House day shelter for showers, using the restroom, or checking their mail. In order to keep residents from congregating in the nearby Cooper Court alley, Peterson-Stigers said the city of Boise has put picnic tables, portable toilets and turned on a drinking fountain in Ann Morrison Park.

“Our hope is that (those experiencing homelessness) come to our shelter to grab their breakfast, grab their lunch and instead of hanging out in that alley way they self spread in the parks, where it is much more comfortable, and there’s less exposure to the heat.”

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