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Demand Spikes At Flagstaff Shelter Services During Coronavirus Pandemic

Courtesy of Flagstaff Shelter Services

Managers of northern Arizona’s largest homeless shelter say demand has spiked in recent weeks because of the economic fallout from the coronavirus outbreak. KNAU’s Ryan Heinsius reports.

According to Flagstaff Shelter Services, the number of people accessing resources has jumped 15% since the outbreak began. Shelter managers have expanded day services and even rented rooms in two motels where about 80 people are being housed. Many of them are elderly or have cancer, diabetes and other health conditions that put them at especially high risk for COVID-19, and the rooms allow them to physically distance.

"It’s released some of the pressure in the shelter so that we can be in compliance with CDC guidelines to keep people six feet apart when they sleep … These are the people who are most vulnerable in our community," says shelter Executive Director Ross Altenbaugh.

Altenbaugh says Shelter Services is spending between $25,000 and $30,000 a week on the motel rooms, and she worries about the long-term sustainability of the plan.

She says some former clients who had previously found homes are now returning after being laid off or having their hours cut during the pandemic. Many of those seeking services are families.

Ryan joined KNAU's newsroom in 2013. He covers a broad range of stories from local, state and tribal politics to education, economy, energy and public lands issues, and frequently interviews internationally known and regional musicians. Ryan is an Edward R. Murrow Award winner and a frequent contributor to NPR.
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