WINDSOR, ONT. -- Physical distancing is a challenge for people in the best of circumstances and Windsor’s homeless shelters have also had to adapt to this “new normal.”

While it’s difficult for places like the Downtown Mission to serve the same number of people who are homeless during a pandemic, the shelter is implementing measures to protect the health and safety of its guests and staff.

“They’ve got bigger problems, really, in their minds, than the virus. They’re trying to survive on the street,” says Ron Dunn, the executive director at the Mission.

He says guests started to recognize the need to adapt as businesses and restaurants, as well as city facilities closed down.

The Downtown Mission is scrambling to accommodate Windsor’s homeless population — while keeping them apart.

“We’re letting people down into the dining room one at a time,” says Dunn, adding the kitchen is staggering meal times from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m., making guests sit two meters apart and only serving 24 people at once.

“Keeping people socially distant is difficult because we all crave, were a family here, we all crave that,” Dunn says.

The Mission opened up a theatre in the church on Monday — keeping guests the mandatory two-metres apart, while giving them something to do.

It also moved beds around at its sanctuary, spreading them out to different floors to allow the shelter to continue sleeping 100 people.

“We’re trying to give people a place to go. The regular spots, even just to use a washroom are closed,” he says.

Ron Dunn says those efforts are working well — with no positive COVID-19 cases amongst staff or guests at the mission.

But there’s another concern brewing. Donations are way down, 95 per cent of regular volunteers are staying away and 20 staff are laid off.

Dunn says extra government funding will allow the mission to hire seven or eight people back and they’re hoping for more resources to help direct traffic inside.

This “pandemic relief” as Dunn calls it is the best they can muster to care for Windsor’s homeless, but there’s no knowing how long the shelter — and others — can keep up.

“Everyone’s getting the hang of it,” Dunn says. “We’re doing the best we can through a difficult time.”