UPDATE (8/13/20 4:30 PM): MISSOULA -- The Poverello Center has changed its hours of operation after a staff member and one other person tested positive for COVID-19.
Director of Development and Advocacy Jesse Jaeger said there has been a plan for this in place since March, as he knew this news would come sooner or later.
"We know that we were never going to be immune to this, it was a matter of when, not if we were going to have COVID-19 in the building," Jaeger said.
The shelter was informed on Tuesday that a staff member tested positive. Following contact tracing and rapid testing, one other person also tested positive. It will be closed from 8 a.m. to 8:45 p.m., but will keep providing food and emergency shelter overnight. Capacity will remain at 98 people, as it has been since this spring.
Jaeger said that limited capacity means more people will be hanging out in the streets, instead of at the Pov.
"That is one of the reasons why we're seeing so much more un-sheltered homelessness in our community right now," Jaeger said.
Jaeger said people are sleeping outside if they can't get a spot inside, and to social distance themselves.
He said now is the time to rally around Missoulians in crisis.
"So many of us are just a paycheck away, a health crisis away from experiencing homelessness. I can't tell you how many times I'm sitting and talking with one of our guests and they tell me, 'I never thought I'd ever be homeless,'" Jaeger said.
The Pov will provide sack meals everyday for breakfast, and from 4 p.m. to 7 p.m. for lunch.
Jaeger says anyone in the community can feel free to contact him with questions or concerns, and there will be a community meeting next Monday. The meeting next week is virtual. To join contact Jesse Jaeger at firstname.lastname@example.org, or by phone at 406-207-3372.
The daytime closure will remain in effect indefinitely.
ORIGINAL (8/13/20, 1:50 PM): The Poverello Center has changed its hours of operation after a staff member tested positive for COVID-19.
"On August 11th we were informed that a Poverello Center staff person tested positive for COVID-19," Poverello Center Executive Director Amy Allison Thompson stated in a letter released on Thursday.
She added that the Poverello "quickly arranged for all close contacts to receive a COVID-19 test administered by the Community Medical Center" and that another person also tested positive for the coronavirus.
Everyone who is considered a close contact with either person with positive test results has been contacted by the Missoula City-County Health Department, according to Thompson's letter. She added that "being associated with the Poverello Center does not mean you are a close contact."
The Poverello Center is now closed during the day. The sack lunches provided by the Missoula Food Bank will be handed out at the shelter from 4 p.m. until 7 p.m. and people will be allowed in for emergency overnight shelter beginning at 8:45 p.m.
Thompson noted that the Poverello will be closed starting at 8 a.m. every morning with the new schedule remaining in effect indefinitely.
"We will continue to follow the recommended protocols to keep our team and guests safe. We know we serve a critical role in our community and are committed to fulfilling our mission," Thompson stated.
She noted that staff members have been following recommended COVID-19 protocols and provides regular screenings of all guests, staff, and volunteers. "Robust cleaning procedures" are now being performed in high traffic areas.
We will have more on this developing story during Thursday's 5:30 News.
Below is the text of the letter sent out Thursday.
It is the Poverello Center’s top priority to keep our guests, volunteers, and staff as healthy and as safe as possible. Starting at the very beginning of the pandemic Poverello Staff followed protocols recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Housing and Urban Development and began working with Partnership Health Clinic to provide regular screenings of all guests, staff, and volunteers of the Poverello Center. Staff have also been asked to monitor their own symptoms and not come into work if they are not feeling well. In addition, we began robust cleaning procedures in high traffic areas of our building.
On August 11th we were informed that a Poverello Center staff person tested positive for COVID-19. We immediately ran through our contact tracing protocols and identified any close contacts that this staff person had and asked them to quarantine at home. We have also quickly arranged for all close contacts to receive a COVID-19 test administered by the Community Medical Center. This testing identified one additional positive COVID result and we are going through the same contacting tracing protocols with that person. Everyone who is considered a close contact with either person with positive test results has been contacted by the health department. Being associated with the Poverello Center does not mean you are a close contact.
Since March, The Poverello Center has had a plan in place for when we got a positive COVID test result, and we are following that plan. To be able to continue to provide our core services of food and shelter we will be fully closing the Poverello Center during the day. Sack lunches provided by the Missoula Food Bank will be handed out at the Poverello from 4:00 to 7:00 PM and doors will open at 8:45 PM for emergency overnight shelter. The Poverello Center doors will be closed starting at 8:00 AM every morning. This will be the schedule for the foreseeable future.
Unfortunately, the Pov isn’t immune to COVID which has infected 5268 Montanans. We will continue to follow the recommended protocols to keep our team and guests safe. We know we serve a critical role in our community and are committed to fulfilling our mission.
The community can support these efforts with financial donations to the Poverello Center (www.poverellocenter.org/donate [r20.rs6.net]) and the Missoula Food Bank (www.missoulafoodbank.org [r20.rs6.net]).
Amy Allison Thompson, LCSW
The Poverello Center