Providing a home for people who don’t have one during COVID-19 pandemic

Local News

RAPID CITY, S.D. (KELO) — Not everyone who gets sick with COVID-19 has a place to call home. That’s why Rapid City is offering up part of the Rushmore Plaza Civic Center to serve as an emergency shelter.

Mayor Steve Allender says people who are homeless are especially vulnerable to COVID-19. Since numbers are not spiking in Pennington County yet, he says now is the time to prepare.

“So logic tells us that when this hits the chronic homeless communities, it’s going to hit hard and there’s going to be some pretty dramatic results in the positive test results. In that circumstances the question is, ‘Then what do we do with this population?’ Well here behind me, we have an answer,” Allender said.

There are 100 beds at the civic center in three separate rooms. Each room is a different tier based on the level of infection.

People will start the process in tents; that’s where it will be determined whether they go to the hospital, tier one, tier two, or tier three. Tier three being a confirmed positive COVID-19 test.

“The idea of this is that you are sick, but not sick enough to be in a hospital in a bed so usually they will say, ‘You need to go home; you need to self-isolate,’ and you’re sick, you’re tired, you’re achy, and you just want to be in a bed, we’ve provided for that,” Jeremy Walla, Emergency Management with Rapid City, said.

There is also space to move around inside and outside. There are showers and hygiene areas, and the Civic Center food staff will prepare three meals a day. Medical staff will have at least four employees 24/7 and will rotate shifts.

“If we get the best outcome possible, all this will be for nothing and we’ll look like we overreacted,” Mayor Allender said.

The emergency homeless shelter is being funded by multiple sources including the John T. Vucurevich Foundation, Rapid City Police Department, Emergency Management and the city of Rapid City and Pennington County.

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