Shelter shutters: Doors close on pilot project and Origins Faith steps away

The site of Ontario’s temporary pilot emergency homeless shelter project as seen on March 24.

ONTARIO — Washing hands thoroughly and maintaining proper hygiene has been part of the basic guidelines for reducing the spread of the novel coronavirus COVID-19 since the public health crisis was first announced in the United States.

The temporary pilot emergency homeless shelter project, where many tiny houses now stand, was poised to start accepting individuals who have been approved to stay at the site, however, many businesses have had restrictions placed on them.

One such business is United Site Services, which was set to deliver a hand washing station to the shelter project site, but based on new restrictions in response to COVID-19, that delivery has been placed on a temporary hold, according to James Vogt, Pastor of Origins Faith Community and Administrator of New Hope Shelter Services.

“We need a hand washing station to open the shelters. Our portable toilet supplier has, according to the guy I spoke with on the phone, a warehouse full of them. But they can’t release them until the federal government says they can,” stated Vogt in an email message on Wednesday morning.

“So, the government, who wants us to ‘reduce the curve,’ won’t release hand washing stations so we can help do the very thing they are asking?” added Vogt.

According to Vogt, the employee from United Site Services he spoke with did not specify what federal mandate or guideline is preventing the delivery of the hand washing stations to the shelter site.

Barb Higinbotham, Executive Director of Community in Action, also stated in an email message to The Argus how the shelter project has been impacted by recent events related to COVID-19.

“With the mitigation efforts to avoid the virus, many services have changed. With Origins closing the day shelter this poses additional challenges that we are working through including showers and hand sanitation,” said Higinbotham.

Ontario City Manager Adam Brown added to the discussion and shared his insights into the project in an email message sent on Wednesday morning.

“We had some email conversation yesterday [Tuesday] and they had not moved people in, but final preparations were closing up. I know Heather and James were working hard. Heather was sealing floors and they both outfitted the sheds with cots and sleeping bags. Our last concern was a hand washing station to maintain sanitation through COVID-19. I know they are busy, so I’m just sharing information on their behalf. They are working hard at it.”

Requests for comment and clarification on this matter from United Site Services were not returned by press time.

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