Homeless communities and shelters throughout the nation and Texas are a potential flashpoint for the COVID-19 pandemic.
So how are shelters addressing this issue?
At Haven for Hope shelter in San Antonio, they’ve implemented several protective measures including increased cleaning, the promotion of consistent handwashing, distribution of hand sanitizer, encouraging social distancing and spacing clients apart when sleeping, wrote Alex Garcia, spokesperson for Haven for Hope, in an email to Reform Austin.
A Washington D.C. shelter reportedly is taking similar steps.
“There’s no such thing as isolating someone in a homeless shelter. Once it gets in, it can spread very rapidly,” said Joseph Mettimano, president of the nonprofit Central Union Mission, in a recent story published in The Hill. “We’re still fully open for business. We’re still sheltering the homeless and feeding the hungry. But we are taking all reasonable steps to keep it out of the building.”
Garcia said Haven for Hope hasn’t referred any clients for testing, and its numbers are currently about 1,400. Presently, it isn’t receiving additional homeless people.
The Salvation Army shelter in Waco advises its guests to practice social distancing, makes hand sanitizer available and provides guidelines for enhanced hygiene, KWTX reported. They also take the temperature of people entering and exiting the facility and have assigned a room for quarantine.
Some of the best practices for shelters recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention:
- Compile a list of principal contacts at local and state health departments
- Create a list of healthcare facilities and alternative care sites
- Encourage the practice of everyday preventive actions
- Promote health messages generated by credible public health sources
- Maintain and provide supplies for staff, volunteers, and clients including soap, hand sanitizers (60% + alcohol), tissues, waste receptacles, disposable facemasks
- Designate space for those with mild respiratory symptoms separating them from others.
There are at least 355 COVID-19 cases and have been at least eight deaths statewide, the Texas Tribune reported. Dallas County has reported more than 30 cases, the most in the state.