20 people test positive for COVID-19 at Firehouse Shelter

Published: Nov. 3, 2021 at 2:29 PM CDT|Updated: Nov. 3, 2021 at 4:01 PM CDT
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BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (WBRC) - Firehouse Ministries is under COVID protocol until November 15, 2021, after 20 people tested positive for COVID-19 at the Firehouse Shelter.

Here is the full statement from Firehouse Ministries:

No one new was being allowed inside the shelter on 2nd Ave N, for 12 days.

“Starting yesterday is when they all started testing positive,” Anne Rygiel Executive Director, Fire Ministries said.

20 people tested positive for COVID-19 inside Firehouse Ministries Shelter in Birmingham, three of them were employees.

Executive Director Anne Rygiel said they were able to pinpoint where the infection started.

“We had a gentleman who was discharged from the hospital and said he had a stomach bug, and he wasn’t coughing or anything. And today he admitted that he was COVID positive,” Rygiel said.

She said the person, who had been in the shelter for a week, admitted he was infected because the shelter was planning to do a mass test. She said they weren’t wary of his diagnosis when he returned from the hospital because he didn’t show any symptoms, and he was only gone a few hours.

Rygiel said 100% of her staff is vaccinated, but she estimated only about 35% of the people they serve have gotten at least one shot.

WBRC was inside the shelter in October 2020.

They had escaped the wrath of COVID-19 at the time, Rygiel said, due to stringent safety protocols like masks, distancing, and testing.

Those measures are still in place, and she said COVID-19 relief money donated by Birmingham, Jefferson County, and a grant from United Way has helped them add barriers and other mitigation tools to the shelter.

But isolating those infected in the dormitory-style facility isn’t possible.

“We have hotel rooms and COVID apartments,” Rygiel.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention identifies the homeless population as a particularly vulnerable group due to age and underlying illness.

It’s difficult to follow the homeless who are impacted by COVID-19 because there’s no central tracking system for each state.

According to, only 23 states report death by COVID in the homeless population, Alabama was not one of them.

Moving forward, in addition to current protocols, Rygiel said the shelter planned to temporarily decrease the number of people allowed to stay there.

“... and keep an eye out and keep doing rapid testing to make sure everyone stays negative,” she said.

The shelter planned to stay under lockdown for 12 days. Fortunately, Rygiel said, at the time this article was written, they had not had any severe or fatal cases and that everyone was experiencing mild to moderate symptoms.

Firehouse Ministries will continue to serve the community. The shelter will serve meals outside for anyone in need, but they need help to make this happen.

Details on how to help are below.


To Go Lunches: Daily @ 11:30 a.m.

Clothing closet/ blanket handout (when supplies are available): 12:45-1:45 p.m. M-F

Showers (Max 5 people at a time/ Mask REQUIRED): 12:45-1:45 M-F

Bathroom Access: 8am-5pm Daily (1 at a time/ Mask REQUIRED)

Needs: The Firehouse desperately needs large casseroles, to go containers, bottled water, prepackaged food and snacks, breakfast food (bagels, Pop tarts, cereal, milk, cereal bars, hard boiled eggs, individual grits/Oatmeal packets, coffee), and laundry detergent.

Deliveries can be made to 626 2nd Ave North, Birmingham, AL 35203.


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