CINCINNATI — St. Francis Seraph Ministries reopened its dining room in Over-the-Rhine Monday for the first time since the start of the coronavirus pandemic.
The nonprofit organization closed its dining room March 13 to keep its guests safe and has distributed more than 40,000 bagged meals since then, said Executive Director Chris Schuermann.
Schuermann and her team have been working to reopen the dining room as the pandemic continues to rage and the weather gets colder.
“People have to be hopeful,” she said. “This eight months of being closed for the homeless has just been terrible. It’s really been hard to watch the number of people who’ve been unsheltered with no place to go to eat a meal.”
New safety protocols in place include temperature screenings for all guests as they enter the building. Guests must also wash their hands outside at a hand-washing station, wear masks and use hand sanitizer when they enter.
St. Francis Seraph Ministries is also requiring identification for each guest in case any contact tracing is necessary, Schuermann said. Guests who don’t want to provide their identification can take a bagged dinner instead, she said.
Only 30 to 40 people are allowed in the dining room at any one time, she said. Each group gets about 20 minutes to eat. Volunteers then sanitize the dining room before the next group enters.
The organization will continue to distribute bagged breakfast meals between 7:30 a.m. and 8:30 a.m. Monday through Friday from its location at 1615 Republic St. Guests also can get a sack lunch when they pick up breakfast.
The dining room will be open from 4-6 p.m. Monday through Friday, with the potential to extend those hours to accommodate more people, Schuermann said.
St. Francis Seraph Ministries relies on volunteers to serve dinner. More information on volunteering and other ways to help is available online.
Lucy May writes about the people, places and issues that define our region – to celebrate what makes the Tri-State great and shine a spotlight on issues we need to address. Poverty is an important focus for Lucy and WCPO 9. To reach Lucy, email email@example.com. Follow her on Twitter @LucyMayCincy.