As COVID-19 positive test numbers continue to rise, the homeless population’s risk of catching the virus also increases.
As a result of the Safer At Home order, there are cities such as West Hollywood and Long Beach which have already used hotels to house the homeless in order to isolate them from others who may potentially be infected.
There are a number of vacant or empty hotels that could be used to house the homeless. The government has an allotted amount of money to help house them during this crisis.
Subset initiatives include Project Roomkey. According to Governor Gavin Newsom, it is a partnership with the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) which made 15,000 hotel rooms available to the homeless population throughout California. These rooms are supported through multiple different programs such as food programs, delivery services and basic social services to meet the needs of the homeless.
Although there are homeless shelters, many face overcrowding issues that bring the risk of transmission, as many are unable to practice “social distancing”.
Not only would housing the homeless in vacant hotels reduce the risk of transmission among the homeless population, but it would also protect the rest of the community. The fewer cases of COVID-19 out in the streets will help stop the rapid spread within the population.
In addition to the overcrowding in homeless shelters, the homeless population is likely to be more susceptible to becoming very ill from COVID-19, as they typically have underlying illnesses and lack of access to health care.
A question that arises is, who gets to be housed in the hotels? There is not enough room to house every homeless person, so what makes a person a candidate to be housed.
The homeless who are housed should be screened for illnesses to ensure that they will not spread any sicknesses or harm others who are being sheltered. This should continue until the government deems it is safe to go back to normal living.
For the portion of the homeless population that will not get the chance to be sheltered in a hotel, there is still hope through herd immunity.
Many of the homeless population typically live in their own small groups or communities. If enough of the group contracts the illness, they will build up an immune response or natural immunity. This would slow down and potentially even stop the spread of the illness, to lower the rate of infection among homeless that are still out on the streets.
The community is all in this together. Now is the time for everyone to help one another during this unfortunate time.