L.A. is ramping up its efforts to protect homeless people from the COVID-19 outbreak, which has killed around 500 residents.
A minimum of 33 unsheltered individuals had tested positive for coronavirus as of Thursday, Barbara Ferrer said. Barbara Ferrer is the director of Los Angeles County’s Department of Public Health. The majority of those cases are homeless people.
To prevent COVID-19 cases from increasing, L.A. will deploy street teams to encampments. Then, they will set up trailers throughout the city to get them off the street, said Mayor Eric Garcetti.
This is a recent addition to statewide initiatives to fast-track placing some 151,000 homeless people in temporary shelters all through Project Roomkey. The mayor said they are doing anything they can to touch each part of the community, and to keep those without homes safe.
Beginning next week, the street teams will implement rapid coronavirus field tests. There will also be wellness and health screenings. Social distancing will be implemented, while providing access to temporary housing and shelters.
Moreover, the L.A. fire department is arranging a high capacity pop-up testing facility in Skid Row. Skid Row has one of the highest numbers of unsheltered county residents. This clinic will include isolation and transportation, as well as quarantine beds for those who test positive.
L.A. county supervisor Hilda L. Solis said that oftentimes, people experiencing homelessness lack a safe area to practice physical distancing, self-isolate, or those with underlying medical problems may be specifically vulnerable to the coronavirus. Through this initiative, they can make sure that no one will be left behind in this health crisis.
L.A. is also launching a program to shelter at-risk homeless individuals inside trailers given by the state. These temporary shelters will be reserved for those residents without houses who are 65 years old and older, or those suffering from pre-existing health conditions. According to Garcetti, he anticipates the arrival of 300 trailers in the coming weeks.
While they continue to address long-term housing solutions for most of the vulnerable populations, health workers will get services on the street where unhoused neighbors live, José Huizar, a council member said. This is to mitigate the spread of coronavirus, and keep them healthy and safe during this pandemic.
This outreach, along with offering more preventive resources and sanitation stations, will go a long way in helping a population that needs immediate assistance.
On Friday, the mayor called on motel and hotel owners to take part in Project Roomkey. Project Roomkey offers temporary shelter to high-risk individuals without stable housing. Los Angeles County already has 2,400 rooms, and is working 24 additional hotels and motels.