The city of Newark is providing a pair of portable restrooms and hand-washing stations to help prevent its homeless population from contracting the coronavirus.
The stations are in Municipal Parking Lots 1 and 4 on Main Street. Lot 1 is behind Grotto Pizza and Lot 4 is behind Walgreens and Panera Bread.
"What we could do on our own was at least provide a safe place to use the restroom and maintain good hygiene,” Newark spokeswoman Jayme Gravell said.
The city does not operate a homeless shelter or food bank, but Gravell said it is committed to making sure its residents are aware of all available resources.
“We're working with our local and state representatives to make sure that food banks are staying open and Meals on Wheels are being delivered, and that people know that they can go to certain schools in the Christina School District to pick up free meals,” she said. “That's what we can do as a city. We don't operate a food bank, but we can point people to the resources that they might be needing.”
The Newark Empowerment Center, a day center for the homeless that is housed at Newark United Methodist Church, is remaining open while adhering to social distancing guidelines regarding COVID-19.
“We're limiting how many people can come in, but we're still trying to stay open,” Marc Marcus, the center's assistant executive director, said. “We're separating people and letting only a few in at a time while still doing as many services as we can at our Newark center.”
Gov. John Carney issued a stay-at-home order Sunday and mandated all non-essential businesses close by 8 a.m. Tuesday. The order closes many establishments with public restrooms and limits places where homeless people can charge their electronic devices.
Gravell said public charging stations are in the works.
“The goal is to identify and locate some cellphone chargers so that the less fortunate have the ability to stay in contact with whoever they need to stay in contact with,” she said.
Delaware had 87 confirmed cases of coronavirus as of Monday night.
Marcus said the homeless population is among the least likely to contract coronavirus because of their infrequency of travel. However, if a member of a community were to get sick, issues like a lack of access to basic sanitation and an inability to isolate and self-quarantine would allow for rapid spreading.
“The homeless population are the least likely to travel anywhere, so they're the most likely not to get it, but they're also the ones who would spread it like crazy if they did get it,” he said.