Homeless mission adhering to strict guidelines amid COVID-19


Buddy Morrow is the executive director of CITA Rescue Mission.

People who are experiencing unsheltered homelessness — those sleeping outside or in tents — might be at risk for infection when there is a community spread of COVID-19, per Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). 

Brevard County officials, doctors and others appreciate that assessment.

“There were great concerns about the homeless population transmitting the virus, but we found that not to be true in our county,” said Buddy Morrow, the executive director of CITA Rescue Mission (CITA).

None of the 52 men in CITA’s residential program as of May 15 had tested positive. CITA’s success in keeping that population safe was due to the strict adherence to guidelines set in accordance with regular meetings with CDC, Infectious Disease Control and State of Homelessness in Washington. 

Located in Melbourne, CITA’s “goal is to take in men who are homeless and drug or alcohol addicted, work with them and get them back on their feet,” Morrow said. 

Francis Csaszar, a 53-year-old homeless man who has been in CITA’s program since 2017, said, “I have no fear of contracting COVID-19. In here, it’s a stable environment. We are essentially a family with rules in place. Everybody is onboard with it. Everybody looks out for each other.”

Some of the protocols at CITA residences are washing hands with soap for 20 seconds, sanitizing often-touched areas every 15 minutes, social distancing and staying in. The staff wears gloves and masks. Essential workers were isolated and permission had to be obtained to leave. Violation of house rules leads to dismissal.

Despite the knowledge that his shelter is safe, Morrow said, “I have great concerns about homeless (people) not in shelter.”

Dr. Thomas Garvin, who works for a federally qualified community center in Brevard, shared Morrow’s concern. 

“It’s a population that most of us don’t think about,” he said. “The homeless people need to have the same things we have.”

To reduce the risks of widespread coronavirus transmission, CITA, at the request of the CDC, accepted additional homeless people into its program.

Csaszar, whose job at CITA includes the intake of new residents, reported that precautions such as medical checks were taken. There are more than 60 agencies — member organizations of the Brevard Homeless Coalition —  serving the homeless community in Brevard. 

Brevard County’s total positive COVID-19 cases was 365 as of May 21. The proportionate number reported for the homeless population is much lower compared to other states.