Detroit's TCF Center to lease lower level for homeless day center during winter months

click to enlarge STEVE NEAVLING
Steve Neavling

Detroit's TCF Center made national headlines when it was converted into a COVID-19 field hospital in April (where it treated just 39 patients) and again in November when it served as a ballot-counting center, where enraged and delusional supporters of President Donald Trump stormed the premises demanding election officials “stop the count.”

Starting Nov. 16, the convention center will serve yet another purpose when it the Pope Francis Center, a day center for the city's homeless, moves into the lower level for winter, Crain's Detroit Business reports.

“Every year we lose people to frostbite and hypothermia; I knew we had to find somewhere to go indoors,” Rev. Tim McCabe, executive director of the center, told Crain's. “The need is growing. This has just been an answer to our prayers to be able to address that need during the winter months, whatever that looks like.”

Since March, the day center has been operating out of eight 20x40-foot tents downtown. The center closed its doors when the pandemic hit, forcing Rev. McCabe and a handful of employees to come up with a solution to not only protect the homeless from the seasonal elements but also provide enough space to encourage social distancing. The tents, erected in the center's parking lot, are equipped with propane heaters and chairs, while volunteers prepare pre-packaged meals for distribution.

However, with winter around the corner, Rev. McCabe had spent the past few months seeking out a large enough indoor space that could accommodate the growing number of people that visit the center each day, while maintaining COVID-19 protocols.

The Pope Francis Center landed a lease with the TCF Center, one in which the convention space will not profit from the rental but will break even. The cost to rent the 14,000 square foot lower level of the TCF Center through March 31, 2021, will cover “utilities, staff, maintenance, sanitation, and security.”

The move is partially funded by an emergency solutions grant of $300,000. To make up the rest of the $250,000 required to move the center, Pope Francis Center will launch a massive media campaign to raise awareness.

According to Crain's, the center's capacity will be 280 people at one time, including staff. In addition to the indoor space, which will continue to provide two meals and medical care between 7 a.m. and 1 p.m., there will be a pair of trailers outside where people can shower and do laundry.

Everyone at the center will have their temperature checked and will be required to wear masks. Additionally, the TCF Center has isolated ventilation systems so as not to share with any field hospital space, which Gov. Gretchen Whitmer has recently alluded to reopening as COVID-19 cases surge.

The tents will remain open until Monday.

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