Lawmakers concerned with how the COVID-19 will impact homeless population

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WASHINGTON, D.C. (NEXSTAR) – Congress is urging the public to stay in your homes but what if you don’t have a home? 

Lawmakers from states like California with large homeless populations are concerned about how the virus could impact people living on the streets. 

Self-quarantine and social distancing are nearly impossible for the homeless.

Lawmakers say that makes the spread of the coronavirus more likely. 

“Too many lives are on the line. We don’t have time to move slow,” Representative Eric Swalwell, D-California, said. 

Congressman Eric Swalwell says a major outbreak in California’s homeless populations– will likely spread into the surrounding city and suburbs. 

“In the house bill we passed, we increased Medicaid dollars which is essential for California because of the homeless,” Swalwell said. 

Swalwell and other representatives from California have been pushing the Trump administration to start building temporary hospitals and shelters to help address the unique challenges facing the homeless.

 “Temporary shelters, isolation unit for those who need to be quarantined. treatment areas for those who are sick,” Representative Raul Ruiz, D-California, said. 

Congressman Raul Ruiz says the federal government will need to work with individual states to quarantine homeless populations.

He says not doing so is an existential threat to major California cities.  

Ruiz says he urged Vice President Mike Pence to address this weeks ago. 

“The administration currently has the authority to mobilize FEMA resources, tent hospitals, tent shelters,” Ruiz said. 

Wednesday afternoon President Trump said FEMA is now playing an enhanced role in mitigating the virus’ spread but it’s still unclear if any of those emergency resources will be directed specifically toward the homeless.

In Indiana, Wheeler Mission says it is actively working with the Marion County Public Health Department on best practices for their shelters and centers. So far, no known cases have been identified at any of its facilities.

“Our primary concern is the safety of our guests, staff and volunteers. Many of those we serve have underlying health issues which places them at greater risk, and we are doing everything we can do to provide safe facilities. We are vigilant about cleaning and sanitizing our buildings and are instructing everyone on steps they can take to prevent the spread of the virus.”

Rick Alvis, President and CEO of Wheeler Mission

Current precautions for Wheeler Mission include:

  • Increased frequency and rigor of cleaning and sanitation

  • Multiple hand washing stations at all facilities (provided by Marion County Public Health Department)
  • Display of a recurring CDC video about ways to prevent the spread of COVID-19
  • Basic health screening of every guest coming to receive services
  • Set up of isolation rooms for guests who may display symptoms related to the coronavirus

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