Open Doors moving to former Red Front Supermarket for temporary shelter

Published: Oct. 29, 2020 at 10:55 PM EDT
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HARRISONBURG, Va. (WHSV) - What was once home to Red Front Supermarket in Harrisonburg for decades, will now be helping the city’s homeless.

In the past, Open Doors changed location every week, going from church-to0-hurch, around the Friendly City, but because of COVID-19, the shelter’s executive director, Joel Ballew, said that wasn’t going to be an option this year as the pandemic continues.

“Because of the pandemic, there are different cleaning protocols that we have to follow. If there was another group scheduled to be in a church building one night a week, or even if the congregation was using their building on Sunday morning, it all of a sudden presents all kinds of new maneuvering considerations that we have to think about," he said.

That changes when guests can be hosted in a building that is completely unused.

“That eliminates some of those big question marks about how do we ensure that our guests and staff are safe,” Ballew said.

Open Doors is hoping to have the former supermarket ready for guests by November 4. They still plan to host 40 guests per night.

For those familiar with the former Red Front Supermarket layout, Ballew said about half of the sales floor and checkout will be where the guests sleep, which allows plenty of space to socially-distance.

Where the bank once stood will have tables set up for meals and downtime and the old meat department will be used, as well.

“We’ll serve [meals] out of the area that was the meat department," Ballew said. "That gave us a setup for some of the infrastructure that we needed for a kitchen and those kinds of things.”

Over the next few days, Ballew said they are looking for volunteers to help load and unload shelter items, organize and sort supplies over the next few days to have the shelter ready by next week.

This will be the shelter’s temporary location until the Open Doors season ends in April 2021.

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