How Bowling Green shelters and resources are adapting to the coronavirus pandemic

Located on East 11th Ave., the Salvation Army of Bowling Green offers Room in the Inn which was established to assist those that cannot stay at our permanent year-round shelter. Approximately 20 local churches are involved in Room in the Inn Bowling Green and they are hoping to add several more this year.

Abbey Nutter

For many Kentucky residents without homes in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, social distancing is a hard obstacle to navigate.

On March 24, Gov. Andy Beshear issued an executive order to close all non life-sustaining businesses in Kentucky. 

In Bowling Green, many resources like the Barren River Area Safe Space, a shelter that provides a wide range of services for victims of sexual assault are maintaining essential services throughout this time. 

BRASS executive director Tori Henniger said the shelter was practicing social distancing and maintaining health practices such as taking the temperature of everyone in the shelter at least once a day, as well as encouraging guests to maintain strong hand washing habits.

In addition to these efforts, BRASS reduced its staff 50% to divide employees into two teams that will alternate work weeks in the hope that the team not on site will practice social distancing. 

“It is almost a skeleton crew of just maintaining our basic operations,” Henniger said. “Answering our crisis line, shelter access to individuals and then doing our three meals a day, and meeting individuals basic needs.”

In addition to the concern of maintaining health among staff and guests, Henniger expressed the worry that in situations where tensions are high, or where abuse is already present, there will be increased risk for individuals contained to their homes.

Dealing with this issue will remain situationally dependent, Henninger said, and the BRASS crisis line will remain in operation 24/7.

“No single incident of abuses, the exact same as another one and so with people’s requests, there’s always been some level of flexibility in trying to navigate how to assist a person who is trying to escape abuse,” Henninger explained. “You know those are things that won’t change.”

Room at the Inn, a service that offers winter overnight shelter to homeless individuals, as well as meals, is closed until early April with limited day services.

Bowling Green Salvation Army’s shelter continues 90 percent of their services, including their food boxes, although these will now be via pick up only, said captain Michael Cox.

A statement on Bowling Green’s Hotel Inc.’s website informed the community that they will modify their food pantry to have a delivery option to continue offering services to individuals with disabilities, underlying health conditions, extremely low-income renters and seniors experiencing homelessness during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Executive director Rhondell Miller wrote in the statement that individuals who experience food insecurity often have the least job security during an economic crisis.

“We have responded to crises before including being proactive during the recent increase of Hepatitis A in the state of Kentucky and we will respond this time to assist our neighbors,” Miller wrote. 

News reporter Abbey Nutter can be reached at [email protected] wku.edu. Follow her on Twitter at @abbeynutter.