- San Francisco has taken steps to protect its homeless community in the face of the coronavirus outbreak in the city.
- Among them is the aim to temporarily house those who have tested positive for the virus in unoccupied rooms in hotels across the city.
- New guidelines from the CDC advise not to move people off the streets unless they would be able to social distance when in the makeshift shelters.
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As the coronavirus disease, known as COVID-19, continues to spread, the nation’s most vulnerable residents are even more at risk of contracting the contagious virus.
San Francisco has taken steps to protect its homeless community, like searching for temporary housing in the city’s unoccupied hotels to get people infected with the virus off the streets and setting up handwashing stations near homeless encampments.
But new guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention provide further direction on how to respond to the virus and its effects on unsheltered individuals in the US. The most stand-out measure is to halt homeless encampment sweeps and to not move homeless individuals into temporary housing units unless they have space to social distance once inside.
“Unless individual housing units are available, do not clear encampments during community spread of COVID-19,” reads the CDC website. “Clearing encampments can cause people to disperse throughout the community and break connections with service providers. This increases the potential for infectious disease spread.”
That means that the potential makeshift shelters being created in hotels, schools, and other facilities in San Francisco are viable options to get people who have tested positive off the streets as long as there is enough space for social distancing in them. There are about 8,500 hotel rooms in San Francisco that could potentially serve this purpose. According to the San Francisco Chronicle, there has yet to be a confirmed case in San Francisco’s homeless population.
The guidelines also include encouraging each individual to carve out 144 square feet of space for their sleeping quarters on the streets and to send counselors into the streets to remind people of best practices, like to distance from others.
There are an estimated 552,830 people living in homelessness in the US, more than 100,000 in the state of California, and an estimated 28,200 in the Bay Area.
As the coronavirus continues to spread, those living on the streets are more at risk of contracting infectious diseases, such as the coronavirus. Many don’t have the luxury of taking the recommended precautions to avoid contracting COVID-19, such as handwashing and keeping a distance from sick people, as Business Insider’s Holly Secon reported.
The city of San Francisco is one of many across the Bay Area in the middle of a stay-at-home order in a bid to contain the coronavirus. The order exempts the Bay Area’s estimated 28,200-person homeless population. They are instead encouraged to find shelter until officials can find ways to house them.
An emergency coronavirus fund has been created to help California grapple with the spread of the virus. Gov. Gavin Newsom announced Wednesday that $100 million of that fund would go to local government to use to shelter and support homeless communities. Another $50 million would go to the state to put toward travel trailers, private vendors, and hotel rooms to expand temporary housing for the homeless. About 400 hotel rooms have already been leased in Oakland for that purpose. Two San Mateo County hotels have also been leased, according to the San Francisco Chronicle.
SEE ALSO: California Gov. Gavin Newsom said more than half the state’s population could contract the coronavirus in the next 8 weeks
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