Eye on KELOLAND: Helping the homeless during a pandemic

Eye on KELOLAND

SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (KELO) — A person who recently stayed at a Sioux Falls homeless shelter has tested positive for COVID-19.

The person stayed at the Bishop Dudley Hospitality House on the 6th, the 8th through the 10th and the 12th of this month.

They were taken a hospital Monday evening after acting lethargic and confused.

Executive Director Madeline Shields says it’s the first known case at the shelter.

KELOLAND’s Kelli Volk sat down with Shields for an interview Tuesday morning, before she knew about the positive COVID-19 case, to talk about some of the safety measures that have been put in place to protect guests and staff.

The Bishop Dudley Hospitality House is where Nichole Pratt rests her head at night for now.

She’s been at the shelter for about three weeks.

Kelli Volk: Where would you be right now if you didn’t have the Bishop Dudley Hospitality House?
Pratt: I would definitely probably be on the streets.

Those are the kinds of stories that drive people like Executive Director Madeline Shields to keep doing this kind of work.

A pandemic doesn’t change that passion.

“We are serving the needs of the most vulnerable people in our community. They have nowhere else to go,” Bishop Dudley Hospitality House Executive Director Madeline Shields said.

The shelter continues to take extra steps to keep guests and staff healthy, including renting four handwashing machines.

“When they come in they’re washing their hands. Every time they walk through the lobby we ask them to wash their hands again,” Shields said.

Guests are also asked to stay in the building, which is what Stefan Reinfurt is doing.

“They’ve advised everybody to stay inside until all this passes over just to keep the sickness down,” Guest Stefan Reinfurt said.

Shields says social distancing is difficult in close quarters, but the Bishop Dudley Hospitality House has made some changes.

“What we are doing is we are trying to move people around the building to spread them out. We have opened up our overnight room during the day to be able to spread some of our more vulnerable guests out, people who disabilities, who have major health issues,” Shields said.

Staff members are wearing masks.

Many guests are putting them on, too.

“Face masks are a big one,” Guest Nichole Pratt said.

But it’s a challenge to keep enough on hand for them.

“When we’re at home or when I’m in my office I don’t have to wear that mask. Our guests don’t have a space where they can go where they can take that off. When you have a mask on 24 hours a day, 7 days a week it’s difficult to keep it in good condition,” Shields said.

Of course, there’s lots of sanitizing going on.

In fact, Shields says guests are volunteering to do extra cleaning.

“Our guests are taking this extremely seriously. The anxiety here is very high. Many people are worried. They’re worried, which we understand and we’re doing the best we can to calm the nerves and to calm the hearts of people who are staying here and as well as our staff,” Shields said.

Shields says staff are working more hours than they ever have before.

“The most challenging part is we’re very concerned that if our staff gets sick, then what do we do? How are we going to continue to care for others if our staff is sick?” Shields said.

But for now Shields and her staff will keep doing the work that they feel called to do.

“This is our mission, and we will continue to do our mission as long as we possibly can,” Shields said.

Because people like Pratt need a safe place to sleep at night.

There are ways you can help the Bishop Dudley Hospitality House right now.

The shelter is in need of prepared food donations to feed 120-140 people a day, face masks, and monetary donations.

Copyright 2020 Nexstar Broadcasting, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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