PORT ANGELES — Providers in Clallam and Jefferson counties are readying shelters for people who lack safe places to stay during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Facilities offer shelter for those who can’t maintain 6-foot social distancing as well as those with the respiratory virus who don’t need hospitalization.
Public health agencies, government officials and social service organizations are bridging geographic boundaries as each county recorded one additional case of the virus Thursday, bringing the total to 11 in Clallam and 28 in Jefferson.
Kevin LoPiccolo, assistant director of Clallam County Health and Human Services, said the Clallam County chain gang finished setting up furniture and 100 cots for a shelter at the Port of Port Angeles’ cavernous 1010 building Thursday, part of a shipment of 150 cots, 12 of which were sent to Forks.
In Forks, City Attorney-Planner Rod Fleck was putting finishing touches Thursday on agreements for an isolation shelter in concert with Forks Community Hospital and a facility for the homeless, which is being funded by a state Department of Commerce grant.
Fleck said he hopes the isolation shelter will be reimbursed through the Federal Emergency Management Agency.
“I’m assuming the state and FEMA will be there to help us with recoverable costs,” he said.
Fleck said the homeless shelter will be open to West End residents who need to isolate or quarantine but live in abodes too small to stay 6 feet apart from family members.
Both agreements should be signed by today, Fleck predicted.
Depending on when the homeless shelter agreement is signed, it could be up and running “within hours of being told there is a need,” he said.
The 1010 shelter is being funded under a $433,000 Commerce grant to cover COVID-19 issues related to homelessness that is being spearheaded by Clallam County Health and Human Services.
It’s being rented at $16,000 a month from the port under a four-month lease backdated to April 1, Port Executive Director Karen Goschen said.
It’s being run with assistance from Olympic Community Action Programs (OlyCAP), which is staffing the facility.
Kathy Morgan, OlyCAP director of housing and community development, said the 1010 Building shelter should be open by April 17, once staffing is set.
OlyCAP, which serves Clallam and Jefferson counties, continues to look for applicants who can make up to $18 an hour depending on experience, Morgan said.
In Jefferson County, OlyCAP was preparing to serve coronavirus pandemic victims who lack access to safe shelter, OlyCAP Executive Director Cherish Conmiller said.
About 30 Jefferson County residents can be housed who need to self-isolate, she said.
Dr. Tom Locke, Jefferson County public health officer, said they will be housed to recover from COVID-19 symptoms or the virus.
LoPiccolo said the 1010 building shelter in Port Angeles will include separate areas for people who can’t maintain social distancing, who have flu-like symptoms but not the virus, and those with the virus who, like the 80 percent of those who catch it, can recover on their own without a hospital stay.
LoPiccolo was getting ready Thursday to talk to a man about a washer and dryer being delivered to the 18th Street site.
He said he has no idea how many people will show up for shelter.
“It’s hard to say with this population,” he said, acknowledging there may be some reluctance among those in the homeless community to accept the offer.
“They have their way of living.”
Breakfast, lunch and dinner will be provided by the Port Angeles Subway restaurant franchise, Lola’s Cafe and Graysons restaurant, paid for by Commerce grant funds.
Serenity House of Clallam County was going to provide meals and was helping to organize the shelter but is no longer involved in the project, Director of Development Lacey Fry said.
“We stepped back from that,” she said.
Fry also said that, as of Wednesday, the Serenity House night-by-night temporary shelter was switching to providing shelter services 24 hours a day, seven days a week, coordinating meals with The Salvation Army and providing transportation for clients to Port Angeles.
The Serenity House Thrift Store has closed, but the facility’s clothes closet remains open, Fry added.
Fleck, who declined to identify where the isolation facility and homeless shelter will be located until the agreements are signed, said the homeless shelter will hold about a dozen people, while the isolation facility is larger and is meant to also house people who test positive and cannot isolate themselves.
“There’s a lot of presumption that everyone can go home if they test positive,” Fleck said.
“There are a lot of things in our demographic that indicate that may not be the case.”
In Clallam County as of Thursday, 612 tests for COVID-19 were conducted, with 549 coming back negative and 52 results pending.
In Jefferson County, 659 tests were conducted, with 619 coming back negative and 12 results pending.
Thirteen positive tests in Jefferson County were in the 20-59 age group, while 15 were in the higher-risk age group between 60 and 80.
“We have fewer pending now, which is great,” Locke said.
“We are finally getting a quicker turnaround time on the test, which is really important with what we do with test results, which is isolating and quarantining people.”
Senior Staff Writer Paul Gottlieb can be reached at 360-452-2345, ext. 55650, or at email@example.com.