COVID-19 has spread rapidly and expansively in recent months and has affected people from all walks of life. However, there are groups that are at much higher risk: among these is the unhoused community. Social distancing becomes worlds more difficult when one cannot simply “stay home”.
As of April 13, 2020, there were over 700 confirmed cases of coronavirus in Sacramento County, and last June’s Point In Time (PIT) Count estimated that 5,570 individuals in Sacramento were sleeping on the streets on any given night. This combination of facts means that not only is the coronavirus relatively established in the region, but also large communities of Sacramentans are much more susceptible.
The intersection between coronavirus and being unhoused goes beyond not having a permanent residence in which to shelter in place. Many individuals who are unhoused in urban areas such as Sacramento live in larger camps with other people. In environments like these, infectious diseases could be spread quickly, given repression measures are difficult to implement.
On March 18, Gavin Newsom approved emergency funding and provided flexibility to local governments in order to help combat homelessness during this pandemic. The money was intended to fund emergency housing and also the leasing of facilities such as hotel and motel rooms that would otherwise be vacant, in order to help flatten the curve.
Another fundamental aspect of the crisis to recognize is the fact that when an unhoused person falls ill with coronavirus and requires treatment it is extremely difficult for them to receive the care they need.
The National Coalition For The Homeless explained, “Homelessness and health care are intimately interwoven. Poor health is both a cause and a result of homelessness.” In times of pandemic, this is more true than ever.
One final way in which the COVID-19 pandemic disproportionately impacts unhoused folks is the fact that many collect income throughout the day to eventually purchase food and other necessities. However, with much of Sacramento located in a “food desert” and many other restaurants and shops beginning to close, it may become more difficult to find necessary products that are nearby or affordable.
While it is easy to feel helpless when confronted with constant floods of information about the spread of COVID, it is important to remember that there is hope and there are ways to help. Many local activist organizations in Sacramento are organizing together to fundraise and promote community relief efforts. In addition, the City approved a plan last week to open up 1,000 beds to unhoused folks across the Sacramento. Ultimately, the global community must work together in order to combat the coronavirus, but local relief efforts will be integral to maintaining the overall wellbeing of a community.
Resources for those experiencing homelessness (via the CDC) can be found here.