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COVID-19: Molinaro Orders Dutchess County Jail Units To Be Repurposed As Emergency Shelters

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In an effort to help battle the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, Dutchess County will use temporary housing PODs as shelter for the area's homeless.

Dutchess County Executive Marc Molinaro made the announcement on Friday, March 20, under an emergency order to allow the use of the vacant temporary housing units, also called PODs. 

The PODs will be set up at the Dutchess County Law Enforcement Center and the Dutchess County Jail campus and be ready for use on Friday, Molinaro said.

Each POD can house up to 52 males and 48 females, he said. They can also be used as medical shelters and community-based care centers.

“We are repurposing the vacant PODs at the Law Enforcement Center and Jail campus to be used as shelters for the homeless," Molinaro said. "We are utilizing every resource at our disposal to respond quickly and effectively to this rapidly evolving health situation. 

"Since social distancing is almost impossible at most homeless shelters, we can use the dormitory-style PODs to help create necessary space to help prevent the further spread of this illness and increase our ability to respond to cases within the homeless population as needed."

Officials at Mental Health America, Hudson River Housing, and the Dutchess Outreach fare working with Sheriff Butch Anderson on the effort.

There is a separate entrance to the property for shelter clients and staff, with physical barriers between the shelter and the jail for additional security. 

“We believe in treating others the way we would like to be treated," said Anderson. "The Dutchess County Sheriff’s Office is proud to help support our community, especially during this difficult time.”

The PODs were opened in 2015 to temporarily house inmates previously boarded in other counties as a cost-saving measure. 

They have been vacant since early January following the county’s work to reduce the population at the jail through restorative justice programs and the implementation of the state’s bail reform legislation, Molinaro said.

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