Wayne Bumford puts on his sneakers Feb. 26, 2019, while warming up at Filling The Gap in Augusta. The Augusta nonprofit shut down its in-person services this week, including its daytime warming center, after a staff member tested positive for COVID-19. Andy Molloy/Kennebec Journal file

AUGUSTA — Bridging the Gap had to shut down its in-person services this week, including its daytime warming center and clothing and essential items pantries because a staff member tested positive for COVID-19.

The Augusta nonprofit organization runs the Augusta Community Warming Center, Addie’s Attic Clothing Bank and Everyday Basics Essentials Hygiene Pantry from its Eastern Avenue site on the Emmanuel Lutheran Episcopal Church property.

Sarah Miller, administrative director of Bridging the Gap, said the organization had no choice but to make the difficult decision to close after the staff member’s positive case prompted most of the organization’s staff to quarantine to avoid potentially spreading the virus.

She said they plan to reopen Monday, Dec. 27, unless something unforeseen comes up before then.

The temporary closure came just days before messy weather and the holidays.

“It’s horrible timing,” Miller said of the closure of in-person services. “I know this is happening everywhere, and I’m grateful this is the first time it has happened here. Unfortunately, the timing it horrible, it’s cold out and right before the holidays. So it was with heavy hearts we had to make a very practical decision.”

Miller said so far this season the warming center — where anyone, including people experiencing homelessness, can come in out of the cold during each weekday — has had five or six people come in during a typical day. She said in general most of them haven’t been homeless.

For people who are homeless, other options for getting inside during the day are limited.

So Miller and Bridging the Gap, in a post on its Facebook page, ask area community members to be especially compassionate toward anyone who may be in need during the organization’s closure.

“We ask that the greater community remain extra compassionate this week in an effort to support those who are experiencing hardship, homelessness or need a safe space in which to rest,” the post states.

“In general our community is very compassionate anyway,” Miller said, “but we’re putting that out there, especially now during the holiday season and with Bridging the Gap closed, to be extra aware of folks who may be struggling.”

Bread of Life Ministries, which operates an overnight family homeless shelter on Hospital Street, usually asks residents there to leave during the day. However, Laura Briggs, shelter director at Bread of Life, said exceptions to that policy are being made, such as when there is inclement weather or other services are closed, and during the holidays.

Bridging the Gap’s Resource Connection Department remains open and available to help this week, by calling 207-530-0184. The organization works collaboratively with some 20 different resources and groups to connect people with services and help. Miller said people call for help with needs ranging from how to navigate the social services system to help finding housing or help getting a vehicle repaired so they can get to work.

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