The Glory Hole's kitchen faced a temporary setback this week.
The Department of Environmental Health, Division of Food Safety and Sanitation posted a notice of closure at 1 p.m. Wednesday for the homeless shelter's kitchen. Environmental health officer Jason Wiard said the notice only applies to the kitchen, so the rest of the shelter remains open.
Wiard said the closing was due to imminent health hazards from an excess of rodent infestations.
"We check out all rodent complaints but they're usually not this bad," he said. "I know it's our only homeless shelter, but the fact is everyone has to be held to same standards."
He said his inspection revealed an excess of rodent droppings in the kitchen's food areas. He said he found rodent evidence in preparation and storage areas, such as the walk-in cooler, and there was inadequate food protection.
Wiard said he was alerted to the infestation when someone brought in a food sack from the shelter. Wiard estimated there were around 40 droppings inside. He said there have been multiple complaints about rodents at the Glory Hole, including three in the last 10 days.
Upon receiving the notice, the Glory Hole's staff began cleaning immediately. Executive Director Mariya Lovishchuk was optimistic that the kitchen would be back open quickly, possibly by lunchtime today.
"It's important for the people to know they don't need to worry. They'll get food soon," she said.
Wiard said the two went over ways to get the kitchen back up to code quickly. He said Lovishchuk was already taking steps in this direction and had scheduled an exterminator that day. She confirmed the exterminator had arrived later that afternoon.
Wiard said among the most important things for remedying the infestation problem was to develop and follow a control plan with the exterminator, as well as proper cleaning and sanitizing.
"I'm working with Mariya to reopen them as soon as possible," he said. "I also provided a ton of education materials."
Lovishchuk said she's been working with an exterminator for a long time and has gone through a few control plans already. She said the shelter had just started a new one.
He said he would check out the progress today to see if they're ready for another inspection. He said the length of the closing depends entirely on the staff's work in bringing it up to code as well as the extermination progress. He doesn't believe it would take longer than a few days.
Wiard said the decision to close the kitchen was a hard one given the circumstances of the clientele. He has had to close establishments before but the sensitive nature of the Glory Hole made this instance stand out.
"On a personal note, this is the worst thing I've ever done as a health inspector," he said.
Wiard said while the kitchen is closed there could be other options to get meals to the city's homeless, and he discussed these options with Lovishchuk. He said an alternative would be to prepare meals in another establishment's kitchen then transfer it to the Glory Hole.
"If people want to help us, donations are always appreciated," Lovishchuk said.
Wiatt's extra concern for rodent infestations here as opposed to other establishments is that he feels the people could be more susceptible to diseases because of their living conditions. He also said the approaching wet and cold weather also aggravates this problem because it could drive more rodents inside.
Contact Jonathan Grass at 523-2276 or at email@example.com.