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Homeless Shelters Reflect on Past Year, Changes Made for Covid-19

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As Covid restrictions are lifted in the State of Michigan, homeless shelters are looking back on the challenges they faced and what lies ahead.

“We worked very hard at how we would provide our services and the guidelines we had to match,” said Dee Obrecht, Executive Director of the Isabella County Restoration House.

The Restoration House in Mount Pleasant typically rotates through local churches, something they weren’t able to do last year because of Covid-19.

“We had to drop our capacity and serve fewer people during some of the cold months because being able to rotate to the other churches was not possible,” said Obrecht.

They also opened a day shelter with meals, laundry, and shower services that was available 24/7 during the height of the pandemic.

“Looking at what facilities that homeless individuals might count on, some of them were not completely open just yet and so we decided that for this year, we would try being open,” said Obrecht.

Our Brother’s Keeper shelter in Big Rapids had their doors open 24/7, too, when the pandemic first hit, and they had to make some tough decisions.

“Normally the shelter would average somewhere in the 30 some people per night,” said President of the Board of Directors Ron McKean, “In order to provide additional spacing to be able to monitor the health of each of our guests, we went to initially half capacity.”

Out of that change lead to discussions about staying open 24/7 when they reopen for their new season in October

“Covid kind of caused us to go 24/7 earlier than what we had scheduled but that was the goal for this year,” said McKean.

Even as shelters look ahead, some precautions will stay in place for now.

“We are still in a pandemic, and they have not lifted the pandemic,” said Obrecht. “Our agency is still operating under pandemic guidelines.”

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