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Lexington shelters brace for snow, bitter cold temps, COVID

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Posted at 4:25 PM, Jan 05, 2022

LEXINGTON, Ky. (LEX 18) — Ginny Ramsey, who runs Lexington’s Catholic Action Center for homeless outreach, probably summed up the latest Omicron Variant surge as well as just about anyone.

“It’s coming through like a Mack truck,” she said of the spread of the virus, and it’s making an already difficult job that much more challenging.

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“We’ve survived ice storms, and we’ve had amazing things that we have survived, but this does seem to be bringing one of the biggest challenges we’ve faced,” she said of offering shelter to those in need while trying to keep her facilities COVID-free.

The LEX 18 Storm Tracker weather team is predicting that Lexington will get its first real dose of winter weather on Thursday. Plummeting temperatures are going to be accompanied by snow accumulations of 2-6 inches, depending on where you live. Other than those summer days when heatstroke can be a concern, these are the times when the shelters are needed most.

“On an average or warmer night, we’d have 20-30 clients. Capacity is 50 and we push capacity when the weather gets bad,” said Katie Vogel of The Hope Center.

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Vogel said 50 is the capacity in the warming shelter due to COVID protocols and while their emergency shelter can house even more people, occupancy there requires a person to have been vaccinated against COVID-19.

“With distancing requirements, and we do require the vaccine in the emergency shelter, that becomes difficult,” Vogel said.

It’s been a difficult stretch for the shelters, which normally pride themselves on opening the doors to anyone in need.

“The Catholic Action Center is based on the fact that all are welcome. But as a private institution, our number-one priority has to be keeping everyone healthy,” Ramsey stated.

Both Ramsey and Vogel said that turning people away from their shelters due to capacity limits, has been the toughest part of their jobs since the pandemic started.

The Catholic Action Center is partnering with the Lighthouse Ministry and will open Thursday at 3 p.m. through Saturday at 10 a.m.