On Wednesday, April 1, 2020, Mississippi Governor Tate Reeves issued a statewide Shelter in Place order to mitigate the spread of the COVID-19 virus. Mississippi’s Shelter in Place order will begin on Friday, April 3 at 5 pm, and will be in effect through April 20. As an essential services provider, The Salvation Army’s locations throughout the state will be operating and serving their communities’ needs. All non-essential Salvation Army programs and events have already been suspended due to social-distancing requirements and will not resume until after the order is lifted. Locations that do not have a shelter will still be offering the social services they provide while using safe social distancing measures. All Salvation Army thrift stores will be closed.
The Salvation Army’s shelters throughout Mississippi will operate 24/7 for the duration of the Shelter in Place ordinance. This increased operating time also requires that each shelter will be feeding 3 meals a day instead of their usual 2. The shelters will continue practicing the safe social-distancing measures that they have already been doing, such as increased spacing of beds, staggering meal times, etc. Shelters will also increase the already heightened daily cleaning and disinfecting measures throughout their facilities to lessen the potential spread of the virus. This round-the-clock sheltering increases staffing needs as well as the urgent increased need for food and cleaning supplies.
The Salvation Army of Jackson has already been operating their shelter 24/7 since March 16th, allowing residents to leave only for essentials. Now, with the governor’s Shelter in Place order, what is considered essential will be limited further. The constant operation of the shelter means that the Jackson Corps is providing 3 all meals a day to residents now, putting an additional strain on their food supplies. All staff are in place and continuing to offer residential counseling.
Sanitation has also increased at the shelter. “We’re wiping down continually, and we’re practicing the 6 ft distancing. At the shelter chapel, I went through, measured and spaced the seats 6 feet apart,” said Major Robert Lyle, Jackson Corps Officer. Hand sanitizer is available throughout the facility. Shelter residents have been spaced farther apart, so a room that has 3 beds now houses only 2 individuals. Extra space is available in case a need for isolation or quarantine arises, but, “Praise the Lord, no one has had any symptoms,” said Major Lyle.
Another way that the Jackson Corps is helping during the COVID-19 pandemic is by providing food boxes to the public. However, they currently only have enough food to last until Tuesday of next week and are calling on the public for help. The food boxes contain supplies for meals including some breakfast items like milk, eggs, and bread, along with about a week’s worth of canned goods. During this crisis, the Corps has been providing food boxes for an average of 50 families a day. To manage the volume of people coming through while practicing social distancing, recipients need to call ahead to set up their pick-up time and staff will meet them at their car with the supplies.
“We’re just believing God for greater things and we believe that our ministry is to the hurting folks who are in our residence. So we’re doing everything we can to safely keep them during this time, providing a clean, friendly, safe environment,” said Major Lyle.
The Salvation Army of Tupelo will operate 24/7 and require that residents only leave the shelter for essential needs. Grocery assistance will remain open via drive-thru pick-ups. Those in need are requested to call and schedule a pick-up time before arriving. All 3 Tupelo Salvation Army thrift stores are closed until further notice.
The shelter currently has 40 residents and is close to capacity. Any residents showing symptoms of the virus will be moved to the former Tupelo Corps shelter building, where they will have a private bedroom and restroom and will be referred to the hospital to be properly screened.
The change to a 24-hr operation dramatically increases the shelter’s financial needs. Typically providing lunch and dinner while collaborating with other soup kitchens for breakfast, the Army may now have to provide all three meals each day. All meals are prepared in a to-go style.
“Food suppliers are still supporting us. Although there are additional needs, what we need most is money. We provide utility assistance, shelter, and meals, and we want to continue supporting those programs as well as our employees during this time,” stated Tupelo Corps Officer Major Ray Morton.
The Salvation Army of Meridian will operate their shelter 24/7 for the duration of the mandate, allowing residents to leave the shelter only for essential needs. The Meridian Corps will continue to provide grocery assistance to the community via drive-thru pick-ups. The Meridian Salvation Army thrift store will be closed for the duration of the ordinance.
Movies, games, and bible study are being organized to help keep residents entertained while practicing safe social distancing. If any shelter resident shows symptoms of the virus, they will be referred to their primary care physician or the hospital to be properly screened. Cleaning and disinfecting practices have increased throughout the shelter due to the extended hours. The Meridian Corps also provides a daily community dinner for anyone in need of a hot meal. These meals usually take place in the dining hall but are now being served to-go style. Grocery assistance numbers have doubled, with nearly 30 cars arriving on average for pick-up daily. Shelter dinner attendance has also doubled this week, increasing to 60 guests per night.
“We haven’t had produce in two weeks. We’re in need of vegetables, tissue, and water. We’re low on cleaning supplies, so we’re using soap and bleach to clean more frequently. We’re taking all precautions with our staff and residents. Our clients have already doubled since the start COVID-19, and we want to be prepared to serve our community as it continues,” stated Meridian Corps Officer, Lieutenant Tamara Robb.
The Salvation Army of Laurel will operate 24/7 and require that residents only leave the shelter for essential needs. Round-the-clock sheltering means increasing the meals provided to 3 per day for every shelter resident when only 2 meals a day are provided under normal operations. Grocery assistance is still available by appointment. The thrift store is closed until further notice.
The shelter currently has 18 residents. Designated areas are available for isolation or quarantine if the need arises. Separate rooms will be provided to any resident showing signs of the virus, and they will be referred to the hospital to be properly screened. There are no infected residents at this time, and cleaning has increased throughout the shelter due to the extended hours.
“We remain open and ready to supply prepared meals and food boxes for anyone in need. Our staff is practicing the suggested guidelines for self-care and we’re monitoring our health for any symptoms,” stated Major Raymond Pruitt, Laurel Corps Officer.
All Salvation Army shelters throughout the state of Mississippi are operating 24-hours a day, 7-days a week for the duration of the state’s Shelter in Place order. Every one of these shelters is in immediate need of extra food and cleaning supplies to meet the increased demand, but their biggest need is financial. The Salvation Army needs a great outpouring of public support to continue to serve the increased need in Mississippi. To support The Salvation Army’s COVID-19 response efforts, please give now.