Stockton mission offers relief to homeless to combat overcrowding at nearby shelters

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STOCKTON, Calif. (KTXL) – Before Gov. Gavin Newsom declared his stay-at-home order on March 17 of last year, Gospel Center Rescue Mission in Stockton began making emergency plans that would prepare them for any potential outcome the pandemic might bring. 

“We are currently the county’s COVID campus,” said CEO Wayne Richardson. 

Richardson said while some relief organizations buckled under the magnitude of COVID-19, GCRM had to step up and help those who can’t help themselves.

“Surprisingly, a lot of national organizations were not present here in our county,” Richardson explained.

In March of 2020, the mission acquired a separate facility to become a part of the Project Roomkey initiative and suppress overcrowding in nearby homeless shelters by taking in at-risk and potentially COVID-19-positive patients.

“They are tested right on our site. We have a partnership with community medical centers that’s here,” Richardson told FOX40. “We get the individuals tested, they quarantine until we get the test results back and then they go into our general population.”

But their efforts did come at a cost.

“About half of my staff had COVID-19, even with all the measures put in place,” Richardson explained.

In fact, most chose to stay away from homeless shelters early on over fear of mass spread and the inability to social distance — a worry that is starting to fade.

“I think the word is getting out more so now and so our numbers are filling up,” Richardson said. “We’re near capacity but we have beds in every single one of our shelters, one of our 10 shelters.”

After the regional stay-at-home order was lifted Monday, Richardson said participants of their New Life Program can now go off campus to do activities that will give them a new start in life.

“Somebody that’s trying to make a positive step forward in their lives, COVID is challenging. Companies are going out of business,” Richardson said. “Just a lot of unknowns with COVID that are affecting the homeless.”

Richardson added he’s confident that during the second phase of the COVID-19 vaccine rollout, they will be able to administer vaccines to their most at-risk residents.

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