Amid rising cases in Indiana and Howard County, officials saw fit to continue a facility where homeless can isolate when testing positive for the COVID-19 or awaiting test results.
The isolation center, located at 625 N. Union St., was established through a grant fund of $380,000 from the Family and Social Services Association (FSSA). While it originally was slated to close at the end of October, county officials gave the go-ahead to extend it through the end of the year.
According to Howard County Commissioner Paul Wyman, the need for the isolation center in the community is still there.
“It was supposed to close at the end of the month, but we still see a need for it in the community. It’s working as it was designed to, so we’ve extended it through the end of the year,” Wyman said. “I do believe we’ll figure out a way to get it into next year as well, which the good part about that is here recently we’ve seen an uptick in our COVID cases. And in the wintertime, with everything moving indoors and those kinds of things, and if cases remain high, this isolation shelter will be really important to protect our homeless shelters and our community.”
The isolation center serves Howard, Tipton, Miami, Cass, and Wabash counties and can isolate about 50 people at one time. The isolation center is operated by Howard County government in partnership with Coordinated Assistance Ministries (CAM) and Community Howard Regional Health.
Dennine Smith, executive director of CAM, said the isolation center has been an asset during this time. Smith said while there haven’t been many positive cases of COVID-19 at CAM, the isolation center has been used frequently for homeless people to quarantine while awaiting test results.
Without the isolation center, Smith said CAM’s residents wouldn’t have a place to quarantine otherwise.
“I’m really happy that we were able to be a part of that project because it really did help a lot. It helped the shelters in town be able to stay open because, as with our situation, we just don’t have the space to quarantine clients in the event that they start displaying symptoms and were waiting for test results,” Smith said.
While breakfast is provided by staff at the center, the Kokomo Rescue Mission makes lunch and dinner for those isolating at the facility.
According to Kokomo Rescue Mission Director Van Taylor, the isolation center has been a “safety net” for the homeless population in the community.
“For the Kokomo Rescue Mission, it’s just a huge safety net because obviously if you have someone that’s been tested, you need to isolate them,” Taylor said. “For some of our shelters, particularly our men’s shelter, they have a dormitory-style shelter. In order to isolate people properly, we need to close like a third of our capacity. And that’s significant when you close 33 percent of your capacity for one person. So with this isolation center, we don’t have to do that.”
Taylor said that those isolating do it “just like everybody else” by staying in allocated areas and entertaining themselves through reading books and watching TV.
Referrals for the center are provided by area medical staff and homeless shelter managers. Homeless individuals who are experiencing symptoms will be tested for the virus, and while awaiting test results, they can isolate at the center. In addition, those who have been hospitalized and are ready for discharge but have not completed their quarantine time may do so there.