Homeless among most vulnerable during COVID-19 pandemic
(CNN) – This might be the worst time to be homeless in America, and people may not have seen the worst of it yet.
From New York, with more than 92,000 homeless people, to California, with more than 151,000, states and cities nationwide are scrambling to make shelters safer and cleaner, and they’re sending medical teams into the streets.
In Denver, Colorado, there are COVID-19 test sites for homeless people, who are less likely to be able to quarantine, isolate or access quality health care.
“We just need to do everything we can to make sure that the virus is not spreading and protecting this really vulnerable population,” said Scott Gilmore, director of Denver Parks and Recreation.
In Phoenix, Arizona, the nonprofit Circle the City is running a hotel for homeless people with confirmed or suspected cases of COVID-19 and nowhere else to go.
“If you can imagine, someone that’s living on the street and life is already rough, it’s Phoenix, Arizona, it’s 110 degrees, and then suddenly they receive a diagnosis of positive for COVID. What do they do next?” said Marty Hames, a community liaison with Circle the City.
“Phoenix is unique in that we have a place where they can go.”
Ronald Wayne Patrick has been homeless for around 30 days. He’s staying at the hotel to isolate and recover.
“I was totally devastated, overwhelmed,” he said. “I just … I thought it was the end of my life.”
Nationwide, there were more than 500,000 homeless people in 2019. There are dire predictions that the economic crisis could make hundreds of thousands more people homeless in 2020.
In Harlem, there’s a rent strike at a building where some tenants have banded together to learn their legal rights before moratoriums on evictions expire and more people are forced out of their homes.
“We’ve even been training in eviction blockades,” said Deborah Metts, an organizer of the strike. “People, they’re not going to come for any of our neighbors, I can tell you that right now.”
“Where are people supposed to go in this city? These are not even cheap apartments,” said Shondrea Thornton, another strike organizer. “These are very expensive apartments, but if you can’t afford this, where are you supposed to go?”
The New York-based organization Women in Need provides shelter for 4,700 people a night – 2,700 are children.
"The shelter system was at capacity, basically, prior to COVID. Now we're going to have a new wave that's going to take a crisis to a catastrophe," said Christine Quinn, the president and CEO of Women in Need.
"The biggest challenge has been so many of our moms losing their jobs."
Around 30 million kids from low income or homeless families depend on schools for free or lower-cost meals. Throughout the pandemic, some of the biggest cities kept providing free food after schools closed.
Los Angeles, which will have virtual school this fall, spent $100 million on high-speed internet and computers for students in need.
New York sent an iPad with data to Zelideth Cruz’s daughter, but the shelter they’ve lived in for three years doesn’t have Wi-Fi.
“It makes it kind of difficult for my daughter to do some of her assignments, because a lot of them have to be on the internet and she won’t have access to them,” Cruz said.
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