Lehigh Valley homeless shelters remain open amid new coronavirus restrictions

Written by on December 16, 2020

 Lehigh Valley homeless shelters remain open amid new coronavirus restrictions

By Chloe Nouvelle

December 16, 2020

Photo| Courtesy of City Center Allentown

Homeless shelters in Allentown and Bethlehem are doing all they can to stay open and keep people out of freezing temperatures even as COVID-19 surges and shutdowns go into effect.

Listen to the story.

When the pandemic first ushered in mass closures in Pennsylvania Dave Fagerstrom had a tough choice. He heads up the YMCA’s warming station and the dilemma is do they stay open and risk lives? Or close? And still risk lives.

“We knew for a fact that if we left it open, we were really potentially doing more harm than good,” said Fagerstrom.

The YMCA along with Bethlehem Emergency Sheltering are closed. And sent people into the woods with tents to ride out the pandemic.

But as health officials learned more about how COVID spreads and informed the public, shelter leaders took notes and then took action. They turned bunk beds into singles. Spaced people at least six feet apart. And mandated masks. 

Bob Rapp of Bethlehem Emergency Sheltering says it’s critical to give people an alternative to a tent at this point in the year.

“We got the snowstorm coming in, unless you’re kind of a little seasoned. You don’t even think about the part about having to wake up in the middle night and clean the snow off your tent or it’s going to collapse on top of you – just the simple things can be really life threatening.” 

And as eviction and foreclosure moratoriums are set to expire, shelters are preparing to take on more people in 2021.

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