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COVID site offers safety, comfort

Brian Ferrans has seen up close the hardships that those with nowhere to call home have faced during the COVID-19 pandemic. He manages the Myrtle Street Isolation/Recovery/Quarantine (IRQ) site that has served over 100 guests, from symptomatic families experiencing homelessness to a man isolating with the virus when he lost his home in the fall fires.

Using buildings leased from the Colorado State University Research Foundation, the Health District is partnering with Homeward Alliance to provide a safe space for someone who has no place to isolate when they have COVID symptoms or have tested positive, or to quarantine when they’ve had close exposure to someone who has COVID.

“We’ve tried to keep the site as flexible as possible to adapt to the rapidly changing public health needs in our community,” says Ferrans, director of the Health District’s Community Impact Team.

Family Housing Network has sent over several families from its overnight shelter and day center, either because they received positive COVID test results or because they were exposed to someone with the virus. The Myrtle site has two separate houses so that those who have the virus are not in the same space as those who have only been exposed.

“Without this IRQ site, exposed families would be forced to go agency to agency interacting with providers to support their basic needs, risking their own health while potentially spreading the virus to many others in the community,” says Annette Zacharias, director of Family Housing Network.

Myrtle site staff have also worked with county contact tracers to help ensure that they are aware of positive cases so that they can find and alert others who may have been exposed. “Even a single positive case or exposed individual who cannot be located could spread the disease to many other individuals, especially in settings where individuals congregate,” says Erika Cathey of the Larimer County Department of Health & Environment’s COVID-19 Case Contact and Monitoring Task Force.

And guests are spreading the word. Jason Bryant, director of emergency services for Fort Collins Rescue Mission, shares: “Everyone I’ve spoken to who has stayed at the Myrtle site said the staff’s care and compassion gave them hope as they struggled with COVID’s effects.”

(Due to overwhelming need, services have temporarily moved to a new IRQ site in Loveland with triple the capacity. The Myrtle Street site will reopen in February.)