The Fort Wayne Rescue Mission is altering its traditional Thanksgiving meal distribution because of a surge in COVID-19.
The mission also is changing how it will house those needing shelter to comply with Indiana's gathering limits and the need for social distancing, officials said Monday morning during a news conference.
The Rev. Donovan Coley, the mission's president and CEO, said the nonprofit won't provide sit-down dinners for the community on Thanksgiving.
Instead, carryout dinners will be distributed curbside 4 to 7 p.m. Nov. 25, the day before Thanksgiving. Distribution will be at at the south-side entrance at 404 E. Washington Blvd.
Cars should enter the building's drive from Clay Street, officials said.
The mission plans to prepare and serve its customary 3,000 dinners using staff at the new mission building and about 20 volunteers, Coley said.
Also, beginning today, all three community meals will return to carryout service. Mission officials anticipate serving Christmas meals the same way,
Meanwhile, mission-affiliated buildings are being reconfigured following guidance provided by the Allen County Health Department to accommodate new capacity limits because of COVID-19, Coley said.
He said the mission's former building at 301 W. Superior St. will likely be pressed back into service in upcoming weeks to handle overflow occupancy and emergencies. The mission moved to its new site Oct. 5.
“Whereas the governor has us at orange as a state, here at the Rescue Mission, we are in the red zone,” Coley said, referring to the state's color-coded description of COVID-19 severity. Red represents the most serious situation.
“When we have 11% to 13% (seven-day positivity) rates, that is significant,” he added. “It's just skyrocketing.”
With current guidelines issued by Gov. Eric Holcomb last week, the mission's bed capacity is “greatly impacted,” Coley said.
For men, the mission can provide up to 274 beds at 404 E. Washington Blvd. For women, the number is 78 beds at Charis House.
With social distancing, however, the shelter can fill only 164 beds for men, 47 beds for women and three beds for women with children – 60% of capacity, he said.
The mission is planning to secure a month-to-month lease allowing use of its previous building from the city, which has agreed to purchase that location for $1.2 million and tear the building down as part of riverfront development, Coley said.
The deal has been approved but has not closed, he said, adding mission officials have asked to accelerate closing so a lease can be worked out.
The site would serve as a daytime warming center for men and women in the building's chapel and be open from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m.
An emergency shelter for women with and without children would be opened on the second and third floors if funding and staffing is found, Coley said. That would require seven to 10 workers and about $250,000, he said.
The warming center will be ready in the next week or two, officials said.
So far, no one at 404 E. Washington has tested positive for COVID-19, Coley said. At Charis House, one person who had been hospitalized came to the shelter but tested positive again and went back to the hospital, he said.