(MINNESOTA) – If you are struggling with being stuck inside your house, imagine not even having a home during this pandemic. There are many Americans who struggle with homelessness. These people are at a higher risk of contracting COVID-19 because they do have less barriers between them and the world around them.
“We are all in this together. There is no separation. The virus doesn’t care if you have an address or not and we need to figure this out for everybody but particularly those who are the most vulnerable and the most marginalized ” – John Tribbett.
In Hennepin county alone there are around 700 to 800 people who are homeless and among the entire metro areas in Minnesota, two dozen homeless are suspected to have or had COVID-19. The number of cases could easily rise within this community because of the limited supply of hygiene products and protection.
One way this virus could easily spread throughout the homeless population is through shelters. With little to no space between people and people coming and going from these establishments, shelters like these can be a hotbed for the virus. This is why many shelters all over the county are limiting the number of people staying there at a time. Other places, like prisons, assisted living, and nursing homes have similar risks.
“Putting people into shelter right now is potentially a death sentence for a lot of people” – John Tribbett.
John Tribbett works at St. Stephens Outreach Team and is helping to protect those who are currently living on the streets and encampments. He believes that single space living, like hotels, are the primary need to help ease the spread of the novel coronavirus amongst the homeless population. Right now, only a few hotels are offering up rooms, but there are still hundreds of people still displaced in Minnesota.
Other states are also going the route of putting homeless populations in hotels. California, for example, has secured 11,000 rooms in hotels plus a 5,000 room deal with Motel 6. Governor Newsom of California says that they are ahead of schedule on their plan they call Project Roomkey. This state plans to continue this plan well after the pandemic is over to help eliminate this national crisis.
While Minnesota doesn’t have enough hotel rooms to keep this community safe, the state has been trying other methods to help lessen the spread. Tribbett recommends that the homeless population should stay in their tents within the encampments and keep distance between one another. There is also four toilet and hygiene stations being set up in the cities to help them from contracting anything. Tribbett says that this is a start to making everyone safer.