'There is definitely a supernatural thing happening here'

Joliet mission successful at keeping the coronavirus at bay

The National Law Center on Homelessness and Poverty said 10% of the homeless population in the U.S. will be hospitalized due to the coronavirus.

That translates into nearly 56,8000 people, the center said.

But MorningStar Mission in Joliet has seen few covid cases and those were at the beginning of the pandemic, according to Kevin Watson, director of programming.

“The health department came out here and tested and everybody and we had seven,” Watson said.

In fact, MorningStar Mission occasionally accepts clients who have tested positive for COVID-19, Watson said.

Watson gave two reasons for the low number of cases. One is following guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The other is God.

“We’re a Christian agency. I’m a Christian,” Watson said. “There is definitely a supernatural thing happening here. God is just taking care of us every day.”

Watson said MorningStar Mission still serves meals to the clients in their programs and to members of the community.

But the mission follows spacing guidelines and limits the number of people in the dining room at one time, he said.

“We’ve had to let people eat in waves, in different shifts,” Watson said. “We’ve had to make a lot of adjustments.”

That refers to housing, too. For instance, the family center has individual rooms with their own ventilation. Clients who need to self-quarantine go to those rooms, Watson said.

Clients who will be staying at one of the shelters need to have a negative COVID-19 test or be willing to self-quarantine for 14 days in one of those rooms.

“We bring the meals to you,” Watson said.

MorningStar Mission hasn’t accepted many covid patients, about 10 to 15, Watson said.

Before accepting a covid-positive client, MorningStar asks those patients to contact the Will County Health Department for an evaluation, Watson said. The client then comes to the mission only if it's appropriate.

“We take them into those singular rooms and we just keep them quarantined,” Watson said. “They have their own bathroom and their own ventilation. It’s like a hotel-style room."

Watson said he hasn’t noticed anyone becoming displaced specifically due to the pandemic. Sometimes the mission gets truck drivers who lose their jobs and find themselves suddenly homeless, he said.

The pandemic has also helped the homeless find housing simply due to the increase of available funding and the mission’s ability to collaborate with other agencies, Watson said.

It’s been challenging,” Watson said. “But it’s been really neat to see some of the lives that have been changed.”