GREAT FALLS — A new ruling from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) will allow the Great Falls Rescue Mission to remain open during the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. The Mission is following recommendations from the CDC in order to minimize the risk of the virus spreading throughout the homeless community in Great Falls and the staff in their building.
Rescue Mission director Jim McCormick says that shutting their doors was never an option, and that this categorization was a relief. “We can’t close our doors and walk away,” McCormick explained. “We have people that are relying on us. I mean, that’s where they live. So, we can’t just shut the doors and send all our employees home because there’s people in each building, so that’s what they’re saying about being a healthcare. We cannot shut down and go home.”
The cold weather services will remain available as we head into the Spring months, and McCormick says that there are currently no issues with capacity or adhering to CDC guidelines for keeping everyone healthy.
The CDC also gave homeless shelters and rescue missions across the country a crisis toolkit and checklist. Those allow the organizations to make sure they’re adhering to the safety recommendations and guidelines while not having to close.
“The reason that we’ve jumped out in front of this so far is because we didn’t want it to be to that point in our shelters. We had a CDC crisis toolkit given to me, I think it was last Friday, a week ago today, and reviewed that over the weekend. Monday morning we started picking off the things that we knew we needed to get on top of,” said McCormick. “We’ve taken every action that we can, except bolting the doors, and I don’t see that as an option because there’s going to be somebody that comes up to the doors and says ‘I need a place to stay.’ We did implement that we want people to have been in Montana, so we don’t want them coming from other states where the virus could be more prevalent, so we have our rules in place and we’re going to stick to those rules and try and keep it out of our building.”
Things like wiping down doorknobs and flat surfaces with disinfectant, coughing into your elbow and washing your hands frequently are things that the Mission asked people to do on a regular basis before the outbreak. The only difference now is that they are enforcing those procedures to ensure that the Mission is as clean as possible, and they can continue to remain open.
McCormick also added that he believes that the reason Cascade County is still coronavirus free is the way the community has come together.
“I’ve seen (city leaders) all working together, trying to get the good of the city, the good of the Mission, the good of each of the non-profits in town,” he said. “We’re working together as a team to try and nip this thing in the bud, and I think because of that, is why we haven’t had any cases as of yet. That’s my personal opinion.”