At a time when everyone is advised to stay at home to prevent the spread of the coronavirus, those without a home have fewer places to go than ever.
On Wednesday morning, a group of four young people without homes were walking past businesses on Bangor’s Main Street, looking for a place where they could seek refuge from the cold. They considered walking to Dunkin’ to get coffee, but knew they would not be able to go inside.
Often, people without fixed addresses in Bangor spend cold days visiting different coffee shops on Main Street or sheltering from the elements at the Bangor Public Library.
However, with downtown businesses shutting down, the library temporarily closed and many chains operating drive-through service only, options for people without homes are more limited than ever as the city tries to keep large groups from assembling in the interest of public health. Options are more limited at night, too, with Monday’s closure of the overnight warming center at the Bangor Area Homeless Shelter and the closure of the Bangor Police Department lobby for overnight stays.
Those closures hit especially hard a population that’s already at double the risk of contracting the novel coronavirus than others. Medical researchers point out that the virus can spread easily among the nation’s homeless population because of cramped quarters at shelters, sharing of utensils and other belongings and the lack of hand-washing stations outside, The New York Times has reported.
“Right now we can’t go to any of the restaurants because they’re closed except for the drive-throughs,” said Lauren Holmes. “And they won’t even serve us because we don’t have cars.”
For two months before the warming center closed, Holmes spent her nights using the chairs there to get some sleep. Now, she’s living in a tent pitched under the Interstate 395 bridge behind Geaghan’s Pub on Main Street.