Lacking capacity, House of Mercy asks Monroe County for hotel space to help those in need

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ROCHESTER, N.Y. (WROC) — At the House of Mercy in Rochester, COVID-19 is taking a toll as winter cold settles in. Demand for beds is high and they’ve had no choice but to turn people away.

“We need help and now that the virus has attacked staff, we’re working tirelessly,” Volunteer Kevin Robinson said.

This past weekend alone, three staff and 14 people who are homeless tested positive for COVID-19. Some are able to quarantine at the Clarion Hotel downtown, but that’s only an option for the COVID-positive and even then, beds are limited.

Meantime, at the shelter it’s hard to maintain a COVID-safe environment for those who need a bed.

Social distancing is not possible for the large number who come to them everyday.

“They have to be seen here and help us to help the homeless who are out in the cold, because they are afraid to come inside,” Sister Grace Miller said. “Somebody has to care for them. We care for them but we can’t put 200 in our shelter or else they’ll all get sick.”

So the House of Mercy is asking Monroe County and the Department of Health to allow homeless people to stay in hotels.

“We’re not the only ones who need help,” Shelter Manager Stacey Jerniagan said. “Some of us have kids to go home to, some of us are over age. Some of these people if they catch it badly there’s nothing that can save their lives.”

Cities like Albany and New York offer hotel rooms to homeless people.

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