Lexington officials work to keep homeless safe from cold, COVID

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Posted at 10:04 PM, Jan 20, 2022
and last updated 2022-01-21 06:33:29-05

LEXINGTON, Ky. (LEX 18) — With the bitter cold expected to hang around Lexington, the Office of Homelessness Prevention and Intervention is keeping its Community Winter Weather Response Plan active through Monday.

The plan, which triggers extended services to accommodate people seeking shelter, was activated Wednesday.

Polly Ruddick, the director of the Office of Homelessness Prevention and Intervention, said that her employees "take a really aggressive education and engagement role" when the temperatures drop to such an extreme low point.

Ruddick acknowledged that while the temperatures are dipping, COVID-19 cases are rising, fueled by the highly contagious omicron variant.

"All of our shelters have very robust testing," she said. "They've worked really hard with the health department."

Ruddick said that only one shelter has a vaccine requirement but that all of the shelters test anyone coming into a shelter for COVID-19.

She also said the shelters have access to places reserved for isolation and quarantine.

Bluegrass Care Navigators, which provides counseling, palliative, and supportive care to people who are seriously ill, has partnered with shelters for isolation and quarantine needs.

The organization partnered with the city of Lexington in 2018 to launch a medical respite program to help those who are experiencing homelessness and in need of short-term recuperative medical care.

When the pandemic hit, the organization stepped up to care for those battling COVID-19.

"In 2021, we served a total of 185 individuals," said Jamie Cody, the transitions program manager at Bluegrass Care Navigators. "About 85 percent of that population were in there because of COVID."

Cody explained that when people in a shelter test positive, they are placed in a hotel room arranged through Bluegrass Care Navigators. In addition to temporary housing, she said staff provides other necessities, like food.

"It takes a team of nurses and social workers to provide this support," Cody said. "And we do it around the clock 24/7."

Cody said the organization is currently caring for 31 people who have tested positive for COVID-19.