Wichita and Sedgwick County are working with the United Way of the Plains and other agencies to protect the area homeless population during the coronavirus outbreak.

The city’s housing and community services director, Sally Stang, said the city is working to provide $300,000 for hotel rooms to temporarily shelter and isolate homeless people who report possible symptoms or test positive coronavirus.   The city is also providing funding to Humankind Ministries to help keep its winter shelter open through the end of April on a 24/7 basis.   The funding is coming from more than $850,000 in emergency solutions grant funding that the city has received from the federal Coronavirus Aid Relief and Economic Security Act.

Stang said the city had been looking at using the former downtown library building as a temporary shelter for homeless people with coronavirus, but after talks with health officials, that location was ruled out because it would not provide adequate isolation.

Dr. Luella Sanders with the United Way said a coalition known as the Continuum of Care has developed an emergency preparedness plan for helping the homeless population. She said the goals are to keep shelter residents and staff members safe, to maintain operation of the shelter system, and to provide housing for as many people as possible if they need to isolate themselves.

Dr. Sanders said local shelters have made “herculean efforts” to adapt to Centers for Disease Control guidelines on the coronavirus.   She said the program will not succeed with only the shelter providers, and it will take a community effort to deal with the coronavirus situation.

More information is available through the United Way’s 211 information line.