The University of Maine in Presque Isle is working with a local organization to convert its gymnasium into a temporary shelter for the homeless population.

One challenge being faced by shelters in Maine is that the beds are too close together to be compliant with the governor's social distancing directive. And that can be dangerous if you get even one client who's contagious. So in Presque Isle, the University of Maine staff is working with ACAP, or Aroostook Community Action Partners, to convert the currently-unused gymnasium into a shelter. Cots are being set up, at a good distance from each other, to allow up to 20 men and women a safe and warm place to stay, as long as they are not showing any signs of COVID-19. Also involved in the project are the Aroostook County Emergency Management Agency, city of Presque Isle, Maine State Housing Authority, and Homeless Services of Aroostook.

Project organizers hope to have the wellness shelter available, starting this week. It will operate 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Guests will be required to undergo regular health screenings for COVID-19 symptoms, including fever, cough, or respiratory congestion. The shelter is expected to remain open as long as physical distancing requirements are in place or until the University is able to reopen to the public. Anyone wishing to help out can find a wish list of needed items on Amazon.

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