MANSFIELD — The Tioga County Homeless Initiative’s shelter continues to provide a warm, safe and caring environment for the homeless population amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
Abby Thorborg, director of operations, said though the shelter is still operating, it’s changed a bit since the pandemic began. For starters, the shelter had to stop taking in new guests, unless they had been or are willing to be tested for COVID-19. They’ve also extended the time guests are able to stay. Normally, guests can stay for up to 30 days, but Thorborg said due to the governor’s stay-at-home order, they’ve extended that.
There are currently 12 guests staying in the shelter; maximum capacity is normally 16 guests. Thorborg said the shelter generally has around 10 guests. There are also two trustees who stay in the shelter to take care of inventory and maintenance.
Now, the only time guests are allowed to leave the shelter is when they’re doing something medical, like picking up a prescription, going to work or helping a family member.
In early March, Thorborg and volunteers inventoried supplies and food and asked volunteers to, rather than provide cooked meals, bring in the raw ingredients. This way, if there was a shutdown, they would have enough supplies in the shelter.
“I get a call … at least three or four times a week, saying ‘Hey, do you guys need anything?’ and if they do bring it up, we have them put it on a stand outside the door,” Thorborg said.
She said the donations in March did go down a bit, but it’s starting to pick back up in April. They only have the basic bills — insurance, utilities and one paid employee — so the monthly bills total run from $5,000-7,000.
Like many others, Thorborg has been doing office work at home. The volunteer caseworker also limits her trips into the shelter and meets with each client via Skype.
“Most of the people in the shelter have some kind of services that they’re working with, whether it’s VA services, mental health services, something like that, and they all meet with their counselors either through Facetime, Zoom or Skype,” Thorborg said.
“Because we are in a rural area, we are luckier than most shelters at this time. In our community, everybody watches out for us,” Thorborg said.
Perishable or non-perishable food items and cleaning supplies may be left in the chest freezer outside the shelter doors. Monetary donations can be mailed to Tioga County Homeless Initiative, 2580 Charleston Road, Mansfield, PA 16933 or online through Paypal at www.tiogahomeless.org/donations.
For more information, visit www.tiogahomeless.org or call 570-724-9001.