Los Angeles is stepping up efforts to protect the homeless from the coronavirus epidemic, which has killed some 500 county residents.
According to Barbara Ferrer, director of the Los Angeles County public health department, at least 33 homeless people tested positive for COVID-19 on Thursday. The majority of these cases are people living on the streets, not in shelters.
To keep the number from rising, Los Angeles will deploy street medical teams to known camps and install citywide trailers to get people off the street, Mayor Eric Garcetti announced on Friday.
This is in addition to statewide efforts to expedite the placement of some of the 151,000 Californian homeless people in temporary shelters through the Roomkey project.
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“With this virus that affects all parts of our community, we are doing everything we can to keep homeless people safe,” said Garcetti.
Starting next week, street teams will conduct COVID-19 rapid-field tests, health and wellness screenings, offer advice for effective social distancing, and provide access to shelters or other temporary accommodation.
The Los Angeles Fire Department is also establishing a large-capacity pop-up test clinic at Skid Row, which has one of the highest concentrations of homeless residents in the county. The site will include transportation to isolation and quarantine beds for people who test positive, said Garcetti.
“Homeless people often lack a safe space to isolate themselves or practice physical distance, and many are elderly or have underlying medical conditions that would make them particularly vulnerable to COVID-19,” said Hilda L. Solis, Los Angeles County Supervisor. . “Through this coordinated effort … we will ensure that no one is left behind during this public health crisis.”
Los Angeles is also launching a program to house at-risk homeless people in state-provided trailers. These temporary shelters will be reserved for homeless residents aged 65 and over or with pre-existing health problems. Garcetti said he expects 300 trailers will be available in the coming weeks.
“As we continue to work on long-term housing solutions for our most vulnerable populations, the medical teams will do much to obtain services on the street where our homeless neighbors live in order to mitigate the spread of COVID-19 and keep them safe during this pandemic, “said José Huizar, board member. “This proximity approach, as well as the provision of more sanitation stations and preventive resources, will go a long way in helping a population that needs all of our assistance during this crisis.”
Garcetti called on hotel and motel owners on Friday to participate in the Roomkey project, which provides temporary shelter for high-risk people without stable housing. The county has secured 2,400 rooms and is negotiating with more than 24 additional hotels and motels, said the mayor.
Earlier, the county announced its goal of guaranteeing 15,000 rooms to house some of the region’s 60,000 homeless people.