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Jacksonville homeless organization works with local hospitals, shelters, mayor's office to create safety net

Changing Homelessness announced Wednesday the combined effort of the Northeast Florida COVID-19 Shelter Protocol to protect everyone during the pandemic.
Credit: WTLV
A homeless man in Jacksonville Beach spent the night in a a cold weather shelter January 22.

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — After weeks of questions circulating around the health and safety of the First Coast's homeless population amid the coronavirus pandemic, several local homeless shelters have joined together in order to make sure everyone is protected during the crisis.  

The coalition has established a seven-page manual for the "Shelter Protocol" they say will be ever-changing to adapt to the community's needs as the virus changes. For example, in the event that a homeless individual is admitted to the hospital after testing positive for the coronavirus or if they are waiting on results while dealing with symptoms, the shelter will have an isolation facility ready when the individual is discharged. 

The undisclosed facility includes 40 private rooms. People can stay in individual rooms with private bathrooms for the duration of time recommended by a medical professional. 

The facility will only be offered for people who are waiting on test results, have been told by a doctor to self-isolate, and/or have tested positive and remain medically stable. They will receive daily meals and wellness checks. 

According to the Shelter Protocol, they will follow these guidelines:

1. Screen everyone including staff and volunteers before they enter the shelter/facility, every day at every entry.

2. If a person experiencing homelessness has symptoms, INFECTED NOT MEDICALLY STABLE, and is in severe respiratory distress, call 911. 

3. If a person experiencing homelessness has symptoms, MEDICALLY VULNERABLE, EXPOSED/TEST PENDING, INFECTED MEDICALLY STABLE, and is NOT in severe respiratory distress, then Scenario 1 (Local Shelter), Scenario 2a/2b (Sulzbacher) or Scenario 3 (Hospital) will apply:

Scenario 1: If a Person/Client presents at a Local Shelter meeting the above outlined symptoms and one of the conditions in Item No. 1 (City Rescue Mission, Trinity Rescue Mission, Clara White Mission, Salvation Army, Mission House, etc.) 

Scenario 2a: If a Person/Client presents at Sulzbacher, a Federally Qualified Health Center (FQHC), they will triage. The Sulzbacher Health Provider will issue directive based on evaluation. If it is determined that Person/Client should be tested, Sulzbacher will connect with the Health Department to arrange for testing. Health Provider must initiate test request by calling 904.253.1850. The Health Department cannot arrange transportation, but could do specimen collection in the field if it is part of a contact investigation. 

Scenario 2b: If a Person/Client presents at Sulzbacher, FQHC, a designated Health Department Test Site (STILL AWAITING TEST KITS AT THIS TIME), they will swab and submit specimens to the Jacksonville Bureau of Laboratories for those who meet CDC criteria. Contact must be made with the Health Department by calling 904- 253-1850 to obtain a Merlin number prior to sending specimens. A Person Under Investigation (PUI) form must also be submitted to the secured fax line 904.253.1851. 

Scenario 3: If a Person/Client presents at a local Hospital and is determined as homeless, the Hospital will provide immediate response to the medical condition.