A makeshift shower made from a bag and a hose and used by members of Bangor's homeless community hangs from a tree limb near the Penobscot River. Credit: Callie Ferguson

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A person who stayed at the Hope House shelter in Bangor has tested positive for COVID-19, according to the shelter, marking the first reported case of the novel coronavirus among someone who accessed the city’s homelessness services.

The individual tested positive on Saturday night and is now isolated at “a separate facility,” said Lori Dwyer, president and CEO of Penobscot Community Health Care, which runs the 54-bed shelter on Corporate Drive.

[Our COVID-19 tracker contains the most recent information on Maine cases by county]

She declined to say where the person is staying. The news comes while the city is still looking for a designated quarantine space for members of the city’s homeless population who test positive for the virus.

The city had originally designated the Columbia Street Baptist Church for that purpose, but that changed last Tuesday when the Hope House moved 20 people into the space so they could sleep farther apart.

The shelter had previously aimed to use the gymnasium at the Bangor campus of the University of Maine at Augusta as a temporary, expanded shelter, but the plan fell through because the gym lacked a sprinkler system and the Bangor Fire Department nixed the idea.

The shelter isolated the person who contracted the virus from others while awaiting test results, Dwyer said. It is working with the Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention to trace the person’s previous contact with other people who may have been exposed to the virus, including other shelter residents and staff.

Shelter residents, both at the Corporate Drive and Columbia Street locations, are given surgical masks, and educated about the virus and social distancing. In addition to wearing personal protective gear, staff have their temperatures taken twice a day.

Meanwhile, the shelter, its community health partners and Bangor city officials will keep looking for “a space for COVID-positive individuals experiencing homelessness, as well as [a] potential additional shelter for individuals requiring isolation or quarantine as a result of contact tracing or other reasons,” she said.

“Our intent is for all individuals, regardless of housing status, to have the opportunity to follow the guidance from the CDC while in our community,” Dwyer said.

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Callie Ferguson

Callie Ferguson is an investigative reporter for the Bangor Daily News. She writes about criminal justice, police and housing.