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Coronavirus Update: Some Homeless Shelters Worry They Can't Keep Up With Demand Amid Pandemic

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) -- New Yorkers are being told to stay home, but what about those who don't have one?

Some city shelters are now worrying they won't be able to keep up with demand.

CBS2's Ali Bauman visited the Bowery Mission soup kitchen and shelter on the Lower East Side, where the line for lunch was down the block Monday.


"We are seeing working people who are not working this week and don't know when they'll be working again on our line," said James Winans, interim CEO of the Bowery Mission.

In a video chat interview, Winans said the Mission typically serves 250 people a day, but for the past week, more than 400 people each day have been coming for meals.

"I think people without a home are also looking for a safe place to be during the day," he said. "When restaurants and libraries and recreation centers are closed, we've also closed all the bathrooms ... so we're providing a hand-washing station at our meals."

For the safety of volunteers and the people they serve, the Mission no longer serves meals indoors, instead giving to-go bags, but that means spending more on supplies like paper bags and plastic containers, not to mention cleaning supplies.

Adding to their expenses, the kitchen can no longer rely on big food donations.

"Our expenses are also up in part because donated food is harder to come by. With all the restaurants closed, all the catering companies closed, the corporate cafeterias closed, all of those places that we relied on for donated food, are able to provide less food," Winans said.

CORONAVIRUS: NY Health Dept. | NY Call 1-(888)-364-3065 | NYC Health Dept. | NYC Call 311, Text COVID to 692692 | NJ Health Dept. | NJ Call 1-(800)-222-1222 or 211, Text NJCOVID to 898211 | CT Health Dept. | CT Call 211

Now that New Yorkers are being told to stay home, many are using technology to connect with people and overcome those feelings of isolation, but that's less of an option for the city's homeless.

"I think the greater loss here maybe is the community. When you're homeless, when you're without a home, dealing with an addiction, dealing with mental illness, isolation can be a very dangerous place to be," Winans said. "For those without a home, that technology isn't available so the isolation they feel is so much more magnified."

With more hungry people, lending a helping hand at a social distance is becoming more of a challenge.

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