Mountain West Cities Confront Homeless People's Vulnerability To COVID-19
Just being homeless puts you at greater risk for getting and spreading COVID-19. And several homeless residents have tested positive for the disease around the Mountain West, from Denver to Las Vegas. That’s forcing community leaders and shelter owners to take precautions.
Jodi Peterson-Stigers, executive director of the Boise shelter Interfaith Sanctuary, said officials there are now stopping by shelters with mobile testing units to test those with symptoms, which may give some residents peace of mind.
“When you have no home, and you know that the best way to not get sick is to self-contain, that’s a lot of pressure,” Peterson-Stigers said. “You’ve got to figure it out in your own way. And so we’re trying to give them all the resources to be able to do that.”
She said Boise has been lucky so far. One hotel has stepped up to house the most vulnerable residents.
Several cities in the Mountain West have already seen positive cases, and there’s a growing acknowledgement that this could grow into a bigger problem as the outbreak spreads.
Las Vegas just opened an emergency outdoor shelter in a parking lot. That happened after a homeless person tested positive for COVID-19, prompting a shelter to temporarily close its doors.
“We are focused on public safety, keeping everyone safe, giving them a safe place to be and giving them a safe place where they can social distance, as is the requirements that have been passed down to everybody,” said Jace Radke, a spokesperson for the city.
In Denver, two homeless people who have tested positive, which has advocates anticipating a surge in cases.
“Two positive cases means we probably have more coming,” Cathy Alderman, vice president of communications and public policy at the Colorado Coalition for the Homeless, told The Colorado Sun.
Find reporter Madelyn Beck on Twitter @MadelynBeck8
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This story was produced by the Mountain West News Bureau, a collaboration between Wyoming Public Media, Boise State Public Radio in Idaho, KUER in Salt Lake City, KUNR in Nevada, the O’Connor Center for the Rocky Mountain West in Montana, and KRCC and KUNC in Colorado. Funding for the Mountain West News Bureau is provided in part by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting.
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