COVID-19 is ‘a crisis within a crisis’ for homeless people

PHOENIX (AP) — Nearly 200 tents stand inches apart on the scorching gravel lots, many covered in blankets for an extra layer of relief from the desert sun. Outside, their occupants sit on hot ground or in folding chairs, nearby palm trees providing no shade. Despite 12-foot-square sections painted in the gravel, there is little social distancing for Phoenix’s homeless population.

Created by local officials in late April as a temporary solution for some of the estimated 3,700 unsheltered homeless, the fenced-in lots on the edge of downtown promised round-the-clock security, social distancing and access to water and toilets. But residents complain that hygiene supplies have become scarce, and measures meant to contain the spread of COVID-19 are not enforced.

“We have been, like, ignored,” said 61-year-old Elisheyah. “There’s no safety, nothing to guarantee you can be safe out here.”

Homeless people are one of the most vulnerable populations in the COVID-19 pandemic, yet they’re largely invisible victims of the crisis. Very little is known about how they are faring in part because the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development — the main federal agency overseeing homeless programs — has not required its national network of providers to gather information on infections or deaths. That’s despite the fact that unlike other high-risk, congregate-living groups, such as nursing home residents or prisoners, homeless people interact more with the public.

Source: AP News

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