Hendersonville – Hendersonville Rescue Mission is still providing a Thanksgiving meal free to people who are homeless, including those not staying in the mission, adding sanitary precautions including multiple sessions of meals to serve fewer at a time.
The Rev. Anthony McMinn is longtime CEO and board president of the mission. He started working at the mission twenty-seven years ago, in 1993. The mission is at 630 Maple Street near the Historic Train Depot and Seventh Avenue. It opened nearly forty years ago, in 1981.
Among health safeguards keeping the mission COVID-free so far are temperature scanning devices to check daily for fevers, protective masks and gloves, and capacity limits.
In this pandemic-stricken year, HRC’s role is more critical than ever—to shelter people experiencing homelessness, with its extra health risks from highly contagious COVID-19.
The mission offers additional support for people experiencing homelessness to address loneliness, despair, depression, mental illness, and/or addiction, as well as job search services.
“We try to let them know we care,” McMinn said. “They’re getting a hot meal and a warm and clean bed” when staying in the mission. “We’re moving lives forward.”
Needs are “on the rise, with COVID-19” this year, he further told The Tribune. “Our priority is meeting needs in a safe and efficient way. We’ve had great compliance with [sanitary] rules…We’re in a new normal.”
Precautions Taken During Meals
The Thanksgiving lunch will be served today (Thursday, November 26) in three or four thirty-minute sessions, instead of the usual two sessions of a typical year, McMinn said. The limit will be twenty-five people per session, less than half the cafeteria’s capacity of sixty-six people.
The free meal features turkey, green beans, sweet potatoes, and pumpkin or other pie.
People coming in for meals must wear a protective mask. Meal volunteers and staff wear face coverings, use hand sanitizer, are behind plastic shields when preparing food, and wear gloves to fix or serve meals. There are two full-time cooks.
Regular meal service resumed in HRM June 12. To-go meals and tele-health service aid non-sheltered guests, McMinn said.
A major change is that “we’re not taking people from as many [neighboring counties] places” to stay in the mission, instead focusing on meeting increased local need, McMinn said.
The Mission’s main shelter has seventy-seven beds, but is using only forty-six, operating at sixty percent capacity. To support social distancing, shelter admittance was expanded from overnight to round-the-clock.
“We’re being careful,” McMinn said, wearing a Clemson mask. “We no longer require they wear masks in their dorm rooms, but they still do when dining.”
Day Center to Open in January
HRC temporarily suspended its Clothing Closet. It delayed opening its expanded Day Center until January, on a test run of a few days per week until the vaccine is readily available—most likely in spring or summer.
The Day Center at HRM was renovated from under 400 square feet to 2,700 square feet of client space. It has a kitchenette, more rest rooms, five showers instead of one, phone access, a library/counseling room, multi-purpose room, and a reception area.
COVID Screening is Working
“We’ve been blessed” to avoid contagion, The Rev. McMinn said. “In ten months, we had only one [COVID-19] case. It didn’t get into the mission.” A prospective female guest had a fever and so was not allowed to stay in the mission. “We got her into a living position elsewhere,” he said. “We quarantined the women she came into contact with. So no one got infected.”
Those coming into the mission are screened at the entrance with a temperature check, and they not let in if a fever (a key COVID symptom) is detected, McMinn explained. Those admitted into the mission have temperature checks daily, as initial screens.
A pivotal $12,000 health investment has been four new temperature scanning devices to detect fever, which is a basic COVID symptom, The Rev. McMinn said. The machines are more accurate than hand-held scanners. If a high fever is detected, a light flashes red for the person to keep distance. A green light admits those testing negative for a fever. The four machines will go at key entrances into and within HRC, McMinn said, and arrive in two weeks.
HRC conducts much stricter health checks on those in its rehab program, The Rev. McMinn said. “Everyone coming into the mission for overnight lodging has to get a COVID-19 rapid test” before being admitted. Results typically come the next day, from Blue Ridge Community Health Service’s Good Samaritan Clinic.
Code Grace is Scrapped
Since COVID test results are not known that same day/night, applicants tested are not let in for the night, McMinn said. Further, he said the mission has to scrap its Code Grace program this winter. Normally, people are housed in a remote site overnight whenever it is forecast to get below 32°F. Some seek HRM counseling; many are back on streets.
“We can’t do that [Code Grace] now,” The Rev. McMinn said. “We can’t get the test turned around in time, to keep people safe.” With possibility of infection, “they’d put others at risk.”
He is proud “our staff has been COVID-free. Many of the usual roster of 250 HRM volunteers opted out for now, but enough are helping, McMinn said. “I salute our staff and volunteers,” and donors.
For more about HRM, call 697-1354 or check hendersonvillerescuemission.com.