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People line up outside the San Fernando Centre for Displaced Persons to collect their lunches instead of being allowed inside the centre yesterday.

In the face of the novel coronavirus pandemic, a homeless shelter in San Fernando has scaled down its services, but the soup kitchen will remain open for now.

Instead of being allowed into the San Fernando Centre for Displaced Persons at Kings Wharf yesterday, those who turned up for meals were asked to form a line at the gate.

They were not allowed into the compound and were given their meals at the gate. Approximately 90 people each received two boxes of meals for breakfast and lunch.

But, no one wore masks, not even the volunteers. Asad Yacobali, who runs the shelter, said they took precautions by not allowing any gathering in the shelter, but it did not think masks were necessary at this time.

“We usually have over 100 people gathered inside every Sunday. They would come and shower and get meals. We are trying to limit the interaction so there was no showering. We had a separation between everyone,” Yacoba;i said.

Hair grooming and movie entertainment have been suspended until further notice.

Yacobali said only six of their 20 volunteers turned up at the centre. “We are hoping to continue providing the meals,” Yacobali said.

Asked why none of the volunteers was wearing masks, he said, “We are using gloves but we did not see the need for face masks. No one was coughing or sneezing at this time.”

He agreed, however, that the socially displaced persons were at high risk of contracting COVID-19.

Noting that the people who show up at the shelter on Sundays depend on those meals, he said one of them was a single mother of four who came to the shelter with her newborn baby. She is unemployed but has rent to pay and her children to care for.

He also asked the public to spare a thought and try to help the less fortunate in society who would not have the funds to stock-buy food, cleaning agents and toiletries.