RD777 - Sheltering for Congregate Care (Post-COVID) Model Shelter Report – December 2021

Executive Summary:

The current 2020 State Coordinated Regional Shelter (SCRS) Plan was developed from planning initiated in 2004. The plan has undergone regular updates and revisions and has developed substantially since its creation. In 2018, the Commonwealth opened state shelters for the first time in the wake of Hurricane Florence evacuation orders, and many lessons were learned. From that experience, much thought and discussion has gone into re-thinking the SCRS plan to allow for greater flexibility while containing costs for future sheltering operations.

The success of the SCRS plan depends in large part on the success of local and regional shelter planning and operations, as well as state planning and preparedness efforts. As incidents expand and shelter operations scale up, gaps and deficiencies at the local and regional level will directly impact SCRS operations, if activated; therefore, SCRS planning needs to be holistic in its approach. While local jurisdictions are responsible for their own shelter planning, it is wise to proactively understand and plan for known gaps throughout the shelter system. While the updated plan itself won’t be able to address all known gaps, the dialogue in the development and planning for improvements has been helpful to better understand these localized issues and try to address for them through a wide variety of means, including improved education, wider collaboration, and deeper contextual review of policies, protocols, and procedures. Mentions of some of these gaps are included in this document to help provide additional context to the reader.

This document identifies new strategies to support the Commonwealth’s SCRS shelter program in order to increase efficiencies and lower costs while ensuring the equitable delivery of services. The strategies are organized into the following categories:

1.  Shelter Operational Phases and Commodities
2.  Shelter Sites
3.  Staffing
4.  SCRS Transition Team
5.  Shelter Consolidation, Relocation and Transition
6.  Training

Some of the strategies in this report have already been instituted, such as staffing changes, updated training, and supplemental shelter education workshops. Other strategies are in progress, such as implementing operational phases, revising commodities, and developing a SCRS Transition Team; while others are still being explored, such as identifying additional shelter sites. Shelter planning is a fluid and reactive process; as information is learned through experience or best practices, the plan is updated accordingly. Thus, some of these strategies may be altered or exchanged as new information becomes available.

The strategies proposed in this report bring some significant changes and will require new thinking, planning, and training from all partner agencies participating in shelter planning.