State moving 200 people from Aurora homeless shelter into hotel
The area's largest homeless shelter outside of Chicago is moving its operation and about 200 residents to a hotel fully leased by the state.
Homeless people who were staying at Hesed House in Aurora will self-quarantine in the hotel after the shelter reported two residents and an employee tested positive for the coronavirus.
"Since everybody's been exposed, we're going to treat it as if everybody potentially has it, and everybody will be in their room while we ride this out," Hesed House Executive Director Ryan Dowd said Monday.
The effort marks the first time the state has activated an alternative housing site for a population more vulnerable to COVID-19, an Illinois Emergency Management Agency spokeswoman said.
County and state officials are working to secure rooms in other dormant hotels to try to prevent the virus from taking root in crowded shelters.
The DuPage County Board on Tuesday plans to vote on awarding $85,000 in grants to two nonprofit groups providing hotel rooms for homeless people.
Hesed residents began moving to the hotel Monday. Officials did not identify the location for security reasons.
Before the move, Illinois Department of Public Health officials warned the shelter it "should assume every single person there" will contract the virus, Dowd said.
"What that means is, you do the math on the mortality rate with COVID, we would have had deaths," Dowd said. "This is a game-changer. Literally, people who would have otherwise died will not die now."
Kane County requested state assistance to help Hesed House.
"The county needed additional space to safely isolate and quarantine this population," IEMA spokeswoman Rebecca Clark said via email.
So far, there have been no other requests from local governments, but the state has identified several locations that could provide alternative housing during the COVID-19 crisis, Clark said.
One of the residents who tested positive remains hospitalized in intensive care. The other is doing well, Dowd said, as is the staff member.
Several more residents are awaiting test results. Aunt Martha's Youth Services will continue providing medical services through a clinic also moving from Hesed House to the hotel.
The state is covering meals, Dowd said, and hired a security firm for the hotel.
"It's the calvary to the rescue," an emotional Dowd said in a Facebook video Saturday.
The shelter is providing snacks and needs granola bars and other nonperishable food in single servings, he said. Donations can be dropped off at Hesed House, 659 S. River St. The shelter will drive donated supplies to the hotel once a day.