Options remain limited for homeless seeking shelter in Plano, Collin County during coronavirus pandemic

Unsheltered individuals in Plano are encouraged to take advantage of the temporary shelter at the the Kay Bailey Hutchison Convention Center during the new coronavirus threat. (Adobe Stock)
Unsheltered individuals in Plano are encouraged to take advantage of the temporary shelter at the the Kay Bailey Hutchison Convention Center during the new coronavirus threat. (Adobe Stock)

Unsheltered individuals in Plano are encouraged to take advantage of the temporary shelter at the the Kay Bailey Hutchison Convention Center during the new coronavirus threat. (Adobe Stock)

Shelter is limited for people experiencing homelessness in Plano amid the various restrictions and health concerns related to the new coronavirus.

Some nearby shelters, such as the Samaritan Inn in McKinney, have slowed their intake, city spokesperson Steve Stoler said. And while there are area resources for the homeless, including the temporary shelter at Kay Bailey Hutchison Convention Center in downtown Dallas, the city is working to identify more options in light of the unprecedented situation, he said.

“If someone is homeless and needs assistance, we want them to explore every option available to them in Plano, Collin County and the North Texas region," Stoler said in a statement. "We are not specifically encouraging homeless people in Plano to go to Dallas. While that is just one option available, the City of Plano is working diligently on finding every option available to keep them safe and healthy.”

About 90 people in Plano are thought to be homeless, according to the city.

“If they’re currently being sheltered, we want them to stay sheltered,” Stoler said.

The temporary shelter in Dallas allows for people that have tested positive for the new coronavirus to be isolated in a hotel.

Homelessness is not currently a category that is tracked among those testing positive for the coronavirus in Collin County, according to Tim Wyatt, Collin County public information officer. The county is also not aware of any reports of a person without shelter testing positive as of March 31, he said.

City House, a Plano-based emergency shelter for those age 17 and younger and a transitional housing service for those 18-22 years old, has yet to see a case of new coronavirus at its facilities, CEO Sheri Messer said.

The emergency shelter has been closed to any new clients for 14 days as of April 1 and hopes to open intake again this week, Messer said. The group’s Outreach Center is also expected to reopen with limited hours soon, she said.

The largest threat City House faces right now is keeping its clients fed and nourished, Messer said. Various community groups and individuals have donated food or gift cards in the last two weeks, she said.

Those who are in need of shelter or assistance are encouraged to call City House, Messer said, regardless of age or intake space.

“We have a quite extensive binder that we can quickly reference,” Messer said. “The thing is to call these phone numbers and ask because there's a lot of people that are still in the trenches here trying to help the kids and adults that are [and] were in distress situations before this virus came about.”

Adults who need to travel to Dallas for shelter can come to City House for a Dallas Area Rapid Transit pass, she said.

City House will try to find alternatives to adult shelters for those who are under the age of 25. This could mean staying at one of City House’s facilities or staying in a hotel room temporarily, paid for by City House.

“The shelters that are in Dallas—great shelters, not not anything negative—but a lot of them don't have staff training to work with this younger demographic, and there is some special training to work with those young adults that fall within kind of the 18- to 25-year-old [age range],” Messer said. “It can trigger more trauma for them in some cases.”

The coronavirus pandemic highlights the need for an emergency shelter in Collin County, Messer said. The health risks among the homeless population are higher because many do not have access to running water to wash their hands, and few will have items such as hand sanitizer.

“You've got this pandemic, and ... the risk becomes exponential for those that are on the street,” Messer said. “We need to have a place for these people to be able to go into our in our own community and care for them here, instead of sending them to Dallas. ... It's a hardship, and these people have already been through major hardship.”

In 2019, more than 100 unsheltered individuals were identified in Plano as part of Collin County's yearly "point in time" count. Numbers for this years count are expected to be released in April.

More information on City House can be found here or by calling 972-424-4626 during working hours or calling 972-971-0278 after hours.

Correction: A previous version of this story misidentified the name of the Samaritan Inn in McKinney.
By Liesbeth Powers
Liesbeth graduated from Baylor University with a degree in new media journalism in December 2018. She gained her newspaper experience as a staff writer and multimedia editor at her campus paper, The Baylor Lariat. Liesbeth joined the Community Impact team in August 2019, where she reports on all things Plano and Richardson, including Plano City Council and Dallas Area Rapid Transit.


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