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Santa Clara County calls for welfare checks at homeless camps during pandemic

Bay Area

SANTA CLARA COUNTY, Calif. (KRON) – With as many as 8,000 homeless people in Santa Clara County, any outbreak of the COVID-19 virus would immediately increase the threat to the broader population and to health care providers and systems already in high demand. 

The homeless are having great difficulty in taking preventative action on their own, says County Supervisor Dave Cortese.

“I am receiving concerns, complaints and inquiries from volunteers who are trying to deliver services, food, blankets and information to the encampments and they are saying the homeless don’t know what’s going on, the homeless aren’t being tested, the homeless aren’t being screened,” Cortese said. 

Cortese’s plan calls for the establishments of welfare check-points at all known homeless camps for the purpose of screening, identifying and referring people to health and welfare services, testing centers and emergency treatment.

The plan would be aided by homeless advocates, like Pastor Scott Wagers of Cham Ministries.

“They are out there in these tents and makeshift structures with three or four or five people and they are living on top of each other and when we go feed them and give them supplies we have to teach them about social distancing. They have no knowledge about this virus, they have been cut off,” Wagers said.

The plan notes that first responders possess the necessary training and can be provided the necessary protections to mobilize an immediate response to the unmet medical needs of the unhoused. 

Screening and contact tracing would be focused on symptomatic people and those who have come in contact with them.

“You know, the homeless can try and stay in their tents just like we are trying to stay in or homes but they are moving around tgo get food and at minimum they are trying to get resources and as they move around they are encountering not just other unhoused folks but people in the surrounding neighborhoods and even in some of our urban centers,” Cortese said.

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