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How Cleveland's homeless community is getting through COVID-19

Area hotels and MetroHealth are coming to the aid of a local shelter.

CLEVELAND — Many people are complaining of boredom sitting around the house all day amid Ohio's shelter in place. Hundreds of people in Cuyahoga County don't have a home to store that boredom. Lutheran Metropolitan Ministries helps roughly 400 men on a daily basis who suffer from homelessness, an issue plagued with new roadblocks amid COVID-19.

The ministry runs three shelters in the county, including the largest men's shelter in Ohio. Inside each, residents are in close quarters in bunk beds and using the same facilities in the bathrooms and kitchen. This is forcing the ministry, like many others in the county, to come up with other solutions.

Acting CEO Maria Foschia says staying socially distant was the first of many new items on the ministry's to-do list about a month ago. It started by reaching out to area hotels, and was met by the same hotels reaching out to them.

"We have bunk beds, and that social distancing, we recognized right away that would be very difficult to continue. We started to strategize with the county early-on to determine who we can best look at solutions for social distancing," says Foschia.

So far, three area hotels agreed to provide shelter. Their locations cannot be revealed for privacy purposes. There are 80 men and 45 women there right now. Foschia expects that number to pass 200 if the pandemic continues another month.

Though the ministry does not reveal whether the people in their shelters have the virus, it is giving those people care. MetroHealth will meet residens where they're at, screening them for possible COVID-19 symptoms. What happens to the homeless community after that was not revealed to 3News. 

Foschia says there is more on their to-do list, even when the pandemic ends. She worries about homelessness spiking as the economy tries to mend itself and people attempt to get back on their feet. The ministry recently met with Senator Sherrod Brown to address those issues. The meeting included 15 housing advocates from across Cleveland and members of Cleveland's city council. Foschia and other shelter directors advocated for changes to eviction policies, affordable housing, and better social distancing in shelters going forward.

"Before social distancing, we were well into our capitol campaign for affordable housing and we are going to be rehabbing homes and looking to be the landlord we wish to be," Foschia says.

If you are in need of shelter, call the United Way 2-1-1 number to connect with shelters like Lutheran Metropolitan Ministries. If you want to help them out, click here.