This article, written by Denise Crosby, was published in the Aurora-Beacon News on April 12, 2020.
With two COVID-19 cases already confirmed at Hesed House, the state of Illinois is moving the approximately 200 residents of the Aurora homeless shelter into a suburban hotel on Monday in an attempt to contain the outbreak.
The location of the hotel that will take in the residents was not released as of Saturday night.
According to Hesed House Executive Director Ryan Dowd, who was informed of the move late Friday night, this second largest homeless shelter in the state will be the first to make such a move, and will likely “serve as a model” as other shelters in Illinois make similar transfers.
The move will not include families in the PADS Emergency Shelter at Hesed House, as they have already been relocated to a hotel.
As of Saturday evening, Hesed House has two confirmed cases of coronavirus, with several other residents quarantined and awaiting results, said Dowd, who credits Kane County Sheriff Ron Hain as the person who doggedly worked to make the transfer of the residents to the hotel on Monday possible.
Dowd said that homeless shelters, in general, are set up to fit as many people as possible into one space, which is the worst possible scenario during a pandemic. That makes the move to the hotel imperative, he said.
Dowd was told last week by the Illinois Department of Public Health, “if we don’t take these actions, just assume every single person in a shelter will get the virus.”
The exodus of the residents from the large shelter on River Street in Aurora is planned for noon on Monday. The state will pay for three boxed meals per day for each shelter resident at the hotel, as well as added security at the facility and cleaning of the hotel once the men leave, Dowd said.
Hesed House staff, however, will be in charge of running the shelter itself at the hotel.
Aunt Martha’s Health and Outreach Center, which the Aurora shelter has partnered with for 15 years – half of that on the Aurora campus – will also set up a mobile clinic at the hotel to handle COVID-19 and other medical issues.
“Literally, this action saves lives and helps flatten the curve,” said Dowd, who planned to lead his staff on Sunday as they prepared for the move to the hotel on Monday.
“What a glorious way to spend Easter.”