NOTE: This story has been updated with additional information about Ripple Community Inc., an Allentown day shelter that remains open.
The rapid spread of the coronavirus has caused many Pennsylvania institutions to modify their operations or shut down entirely, but some local homeless shelters are still doing their part to help support those in need.
The Allentown Rescue Mission plans on remaining open and continuing to accept men despite the spread of COVID-19, their CEO Stuart Smith announced in a press release issued last week.
“With the growing pandemic of the coronavirus in the Lehigh Valley, the Allentown Rescue Mission is taking steps to make sure that our men are remaining safe and healthy,” Smith said.
Those steps include keeping their emergency shelter open 24 hours a day, setting up isolation areas within their facilities, taking the temperature of all men who enter the shelter and sending men with symptoms of illness to the hospital for testing and potential admittance.
“Should the hospital send men home who have tested positive, they will be allowed to return to the mission and stay in a newly-created isolation area,” Smith said.
The Allentown Rescue Mission has also begun providing its men with bagged lunches and dinners consisting of sandwiches and sides. For this reason, they ask that anyone donating food give raw ingredients that can be used for sandwiches, or single serving snacks and drinks.
Rosaria Stoops, Development Manager, said single serving donations are important right now because they provide a more sanitary meal option than the shelter’s traditional family-style meals. The shelter has also stopped accepting prepared food at this time and paused its Make-a-Meal Program.
The Allentown Rescue Mission is currently in need of disinfecting products such as hand sanitizer, disinfectant wipes and sprays, and any basic cleaning products. They are continuing to accept monetary donations as well. Click here for other ideas and the link to their Amazon wishlist.
Donations can be dropped off at the Allentown Rescue Mission, 355 Hamilton St. Allentown, and are being accepted curbside. When you pull up out front simply call 610-740-5500, ext. 310, for someone to come outside and collect the donations.
New Bethany Ministries in Bethlehem has closed its day shelter and moved its client services curbside, but is continuing to operate its food pantry and serve hot lunches, according to a COVID-19 Community Plan on their website.
“Our food pantry is open. Anyone who needs groceries can get them,” said Mark Rittle, Executive Director.
An update shared Wednesday stated that the shelter has been serving food to “around 80 people daily” and expects that number to rise.
“In 35 years we have never closed our doors, and we are working every day to make sure those doors do not close at a time when our neighbors need us the most,” the shelter said.
New Bethany serves hot lunches from noon to 1 p.m., and they operate their food pantry from 10:30 to 11:30 a.m., weekdays.
They are also accepting prepared meals which can be served to their residents, along with cleaning supplies and any food people can offer, including non-perishable and frozen food. Donations can be dropped off at New Bethany’s office at 333 W. Fourth St., Bethlehem, weekdays between the hours of 8 a.m. and 2 p.m. Monetary donations can be made securely online.
The residents themselves are isolating as much as possible, and the shelter’s residences are currently closed to everyone except essential personnel. However, showers, hand sanitizing and handwashing stations remain open to the public to promote good hygiene.
Rittle said New Bethany the number of volunteers on site has decreased from 15 to fewer than six.
According to the update shared Wednesday, additional volunteers are needed.
“Volunteers do not interact with the general public,” the post said. “For those committing to make a meal or help in the food pantry, we are scheduling just one or two people at a time. Please contact Brandy Garofalo at 610-691-5602, ext. 210.”
Turning Point of Lehigh Valley is also making modifications to their operations to promote social distancing while ensuring that resources remain available to people who don’t feel safe in their own homes due to domestic violence and abuse.
“Our greatest priority continues to be helping survivors of domestic and intimate partner abuse, and we know this includes implementing the recommended preventative measures to limit the possible spread of the coronavirus and other infectious diseases,” the organization said in a message regarding COVID-19.
Preventive measures include offering remote services when possible, especially for those at high risk of infection, temporarily suspending group activities–including their supportive group counseling services–and postponing their next New Advocate Training Session.
They are also asking that visitors postpone all visits if possible for the time being.
Ripple Community Inc.’s day shelter in Allentown is open, operating and in need of community support.
“The best way to support us is by making an online donation or by donating items,” a post on the shelter’s website said.
Among the items that are needed are disposable nitrile gloves, cleaning products such as Lysol spray, 13-gallon trash bags, individually-wrapped nonperishable food items, juice boxes, bottled water, travel size toiletries, loaves of bread, gift cards to stores such as Wawa and Giant, paper sandwich bags and small Ziploc bags.
Donations can be dropped off at the Community Building Center, 1335 W. Linden St., Allentown, Tuesday, Wednesday,and Thursday from 1 to 5 p.m., and Friday and Saturday from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m.
For more information, email firstname.lastname@example.org. Someone will do their best to get back to you, however staff and volunteers are stretched very thin right now.