The arrival of COVID-19 has significantly impacted everyone in many ways. Hundreds of stores, schools, and businesses have closed, while some employees are working from home. Officials have ordered residents to practice social distancing from others to decrease spreading the virus. But the homeless don't have choices.
The streets are more dangerous now. Shelters are overcrowded. Imagine sleeping next to someone who may have the virus, and you have nowhere else to go. You have no way of protecting your health. Additionally, most homeless people have underlying health conditions, which makes them more vulnerable to COVID-19. Shelters like the Salvation Army can't practice adequate social distancing because they have 170 to 180 people a night staying close together.
The Salvation Army is the current primary short-term shelter in Amarillo, but it was continually overcrowding. Juliana Kitten, City of Amarillo's Director of Community Development and her team, decided it was time to take action.
"The first part of our process is to help spread people out so they're not on top of each other. We moved about 25 families and some individuals out of the Salvation Army and into apartments because they didn't have enough room to do adequate social distancing," said Kitten.
After spreading people out, the number at the Salvation Army decreased from 170 to roughly 60 or 70. Now that there are fewer people, they can practice proper social distancing. Kitten and her team's actions have also lightened the load on the Salvation Army staff. Mothers and children now have more protection too.
It doesn't stop there. Although most homeless had housing, they didn't have the essentials. So, Kitten's team reached out to the community for donations, and the public's response was astonishing.
"It's no surprise that we just started, and we already have several items. Like I said, this community is incredibly gracious, giving and generous," said Kitten.
The best part is that people can stay in housing for as long as needed. What Kitten and her team did is an example of how one American city takes care of the invisible, even in the midst of the most significant health emergency.
"We are in it for the long haul, said Juliana Kitten. "GSRC, the Salvation Army, our Transit, and all the people who volunteer and help are committed. It's 24/7 with us, just like what many people are doing right now."
Street Auto Group is committed to helping the homeless and housing insecure neighbors in the Amarillo area. Street Auto Group is passionate about giving back to those in need. They believe people in the Amarillo community who are adrift and tossed around in a sea of bad fortune deserve support from everyone.