WACO — The first possible case of coronavirus has hit the Waco homeless community, and while test results pend the nonprofit, Mission Waco is quarantining the individual in a local hotel.
25 News met with Mission Waco's Executive Director, John Calaway, as the person was undergoing COVID-19 testing.
"Right now at this moment, we have someone in the family health center being tested for COVID-19, and I have to put them in a hotel tonight. So our Board of Directors stepped up and is providing the initial funding for that to happen,“ Calaway said.
The organization had to make decisions quickly because the homeless community they serve doesn't have the option to shelter in place.
"I can’t send them back into our shelter, and I don’t want them walking around the streets of Waco. This isn’t just an issue of loving your neighbor, meaning the homeless, and caring for them, this is a public health issue,“ Calaway said.
Mission Waco adjusted their open hours weeks ago, accommodating more people for larger periods of time, so that the Waco homeless community had a safe place to shelter during the pandemic.
For weeks now, Mission Waco has been screening all people who enter their facilities, every day, twice a day, for any signs of illness.
"If they don’t pass the screening, we send them to the Family Health Center and they decide whether or not they’re going to test them for COVID-19,“ said Calaway.
They said the clinic would only test an individual for the virus if they believe there is a possibility the person could be positive.
While the person tested awaits their test results, they must stay away from others, thus rendering the shelter not an option for quarantine.
Mission Waco has found two hotels within 30 minutes of Waco's Downtown that will house the homeless quarantined during this time, but if more than a few people need quarantining, financially the strategy is less feasible.
"It’s about $60 a night, but you can imagine if I have five or ten people at $60 a night, and they’re supposed to self quarantine for 14 days, that gets expensive really fast, and then now it’s bloomed into something much bigger than Mission Waco can afford,“ Calaway said.
While quarantined in local hotels, the sick people will be tended to by Mission Waco and provided food and check-ins.
Mission Waco is asking the community for help in funding for the hotel rooms that will shelter all quarantined individuals; they also ask any local hotels or vacation rentals willing to house sick homeless individuals, to please contact Mission Waco's main office at 254-753-4900.
The results for the person tested for COVID-19 are anticipated back by March 27, 2020.