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Working Together: Damien Center helps those at risk during pandemic

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Posted at 10:30 PM, Mar 30, 2020
and last updated 2020-03-30 23:24:28-04

Working Together is a new WRTV initiative that focuses on telling impactful stories highlighting the wide range of cultures, areas and people that make central Indiana the place that it is. Through our Working Together initiative, we will share the stories of our communities and carry their voices forward. We’re Working for You by Working Together.

INDIANAPOLIS — A local non-profit is working quickly to get a high-risk group some extra help.

The Damien Center is dedicated to helping people with HIV. Some of the people they connect with are also experiencing homelessness. After a man staying at Wheeler Mission in downtown Indianapolis tested positive for COVID-19, the Damien Center started moving people with HIV from shelters to hotels.

"Having 3,000 people who are unsheltered and putting their lives at risk should always bother someone," Tyne Parlett said.

Parlett said not addressing homelessness and overcrowded shelters has set up a potentially deadly situation during the novel coronavirus pandemic.

"The thought that people were totally fine with people sleeping one to two feet away from somebody, 400 at a time, being served meals and thinking that's just what Wheeler Mission does, that's what Good News does, well, that's not okay," Parlett, the housing and food pantry manager at the Damien Center, said.

The Damien Center focuses their work on people living with HIV. Parlett said those who are HIV positive and staying at a homeless shelter are more than likely also having trouble gettiing medicine, which creates other issues. Getting COVID-19 would make things even worse.

LEARN MORE | Damien Center

"We knew it was paramount for us to ask pretty quickly and pretty creatively about what we could do to get people with HIV out of these living situations and into places that would be safe for them," Parlett said.

Parlett is hopeful this difficult time for everyone will make an actual impact on ending homelessness once things get back to normal.

"Until we as a community see people as humans and recognize this is something affecting and touching us every day even when we can't see it we aren't gong to end homelessness," Parlett said.

In four days, the Damien Center has moved 31 people out of shelters and into hotels where they'll stay for the next 30 days at least.

What is Working Together?
Working Together is a new WRTV initiative that focuses on telling impactful stories highlighting the wide range of cultures, areas and people that make central Indiana the place that it is. Through our Working Together initiative we will share the stories of our communities and carry their voices forward. We’re Working for You by Working Together.

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