The Community Emergency Shelter Committee now opts for a non-congregate shelter model this winter to preserve public health and prevent potential spread of COVID-19.

The Community Emergency Shelter pilot that was proposed to open at the Flanagan Community Center this December received considerable endorsement from the community last year, including the YMCA, City of Rockland, Rockland Police Department, faith-based organizations and local leaders.

The realities of COVID-19 forced the committee to modify the 2020 Community Emergency Shelter pilot plan. Learning from the ongoing work of Knox County Homeless Coalition during the pandemic and from national shelters, there is evidence of substantial public health risk and virus transmission in “congregate” facilities, as originally planned with large open spaces, multiple beds and numerous families in one room.

Health officials and the CDC are encouraging shelter providers to avoid congregate settings, and instead utilize vacant motel or hotel rooms to safely self-isolate individuals and families experiencing homelessness.

In partnership with Maine State Housing Authority, the homeless coalition has been doing that for the past six months successfully. They’ve kept clients and the public as safe as possible through the growing use of hotel rooms in the area. As the homeless coalition team prepares for winter, they expect to see a growing need to place individuals and families in motel rooms for safe emergency shelter.

While not envisioned last year, the Community Emergency Shelter Committee is committed to supporting the emergency needs while following CDC guidance, and is endorsing the use of non-congregate accommodations as the emergency solution this winter.

Although shelter facilities will be different than originally anticipated, by utilizing motel and hotel rooms the outcome remains the same — safe, emergency shelter to individuals and families during the cold winter months.

The Knox County Homeless Coalition sent a letter notifying all donors to the pilot program of the plans for this winter.

For questions or comments or to support this project contact donations@homehelphope.org or Emergency Shelter Pilot c/o KCHC, P.O. Box 1696, Rockland ME 04841.