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Wheeler Mission guest tests positive for COVID-19

Wheeler Mission in dire need of extra space before severe winter weather returns
Posted at 8:17 AM, Mar 26, 2020
and last updated 2020-03-26 21:14:10-04

INDIANAPOLIS — A guest at Wheeler Mission Indianapolis tested positive for the coronavirus this week.

The guest is in quarantine at a separate location, according to Wheeler Mission Executive VP of Advancement Steve Kerr.

Kerr said Wheeler Mission representatives will be working with the health department to find ways to reduce the number of men in the facility.

Earlier this week, the group posted that “social distancing is not an option” because of how many people are experiencing homelessness in Indianapolis.

“Right now, our neighbors experiencing homelessness are more vulnerable than ever, and our facilities are packed with guests who have nowhere else to go,” the group said on Facebook.

Ed Smith is one of hundreds of men who call Wheeler Mission home right now.

"At first when I first heard about the coronavirus I wasn't taking it that serious but since the guy had got tested positive and you see all these so-called symptoms and stuff, yeah, I'm worried," Smith said. "Being homeless we go everywhere and then we come back in that one place."

Kerr said the shelter has been doing health screenings at the door.

"If need be we take their temperature and if need be we will isolate them and connect with the board of health," Kerr said. "Our objective right now is to mitigate the risk as much as we can."

Neighborhood Fellowship Church on East 10th Street is opening their doors for those in need. They will take in 50 men. The board of health is also opening a shelter. They haven't said the exact location but it's expected to take in another 50, reducing the total number of men staying downtown by almost 25 percent.

"I want them to know that we are doing everything we can to protect them, to protect our staff," Kerr said. "We understand the fear factor is there and we want to make our facility as safe as possible."

Some of the men at the shelter and trying to do their part.

"I try my best to keep my hands clean and washed and stay away from people as best I can," Smith said.