An overflow shelter for the homeless is getting more RVs to house and treat those who have tested positive for coronavirus, Fort Worth city officials confirm.
Last month, the Convention Center in downtown Fort Worth opened up to support the city’s eight existing homeless shelters. Available space at those shelters decreased due to required social distancing efforts, with beds now being kept six feet apart.
The maximum capacity at the convention center is 477 people, with JPS healthcare workers checking temperatures and screening people when they arrive in the late afternoon.
Richard Zavala, director of Fort Worth’s Park and Recreation Department, said the rented RVs outside and near the convention center are being used to house and treat those who have tested positive for COVID-19 but don’t require hospital treatment.
About 20 more RVs were being brought to the site Wednesday which brings the total to 50, according to Zavala.
“The surge for this particular community is estimated to occur in the next couple of weeks,” Zavala said. “We’re also looking at more massive testing of the population, which that’s going to generate a higher number for us but it’ll help in controlling contamination amongst the other folks.”
As of Wednesday, Zavala said four people are being housed in the RVs after testing positive for COVID-19. Last week, their first recovered patient was released after a 14-day stay.
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Lauren King with the Tarrant County Homeless Coalition said as a whole, the homeless population does fall into the “high risk” category for contracting illnesses.
“Living without a place to call home does increase your likelihood of getting sick – even a common cold, any kind of sickness. Not just COVID-19,” King said. “And also chronic illnesses, so if you think about you’re a person with diabetes but you don’t have any place to store medicine, that kind of thing, you’re on a very hard situation on the streets. So you may have unmanaged chronic illnesses, that kind of thing, that could exacerbate any kind of illness that comes along.”
Inside the RVs, there is one television set. Zavala said they’re also providing books to keep people in isolation occupied.
"Besides staging them [RVs] out there, we have to bring in utilities – phone lines, communications both with healthcare workers and management staff, security has to be set up. They’re all secured. They’re fenced. Fort Worth PD is stationed anytime we activate a trailer," he said. “Our experience so far is, folks are happy to be here. Happy to sit through the trailer and get the meals and needs hopefully addressed and hopefully walk out of here COVID free."
At the convention center, people arrive at 4 p.m. and must leave by 7 a.m. They are provided a cot, dinner, and breakfast. Overall, operating costs for the center run up to $59 per day per guest. Healthcare provided by JPS are about $24 per day per guest, according to Zavala.
Zavala said there’s also 35 RVs staged at the Will Rogers Memorial for first responders.
King said right now, the convention center could use more masks. For information on helping or donating, click here.