‘Many do not survive spring’: how big cities are trying to help the homeless during a pandemic

Hundreds of thousands of homeless all over the world most vulnerable to coronavirus. They live, food on the table and money in the crowded places. They have no money for treatment, they are potentially dangerous, the distributors of the virus. The BBC tells us how to solve this problem in different cities and countries.

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Los Angeles. Five free toilets

About the first officially confirmed case of death of a homeless man from the coronavirus in the United States the Governor of California Gavin Newsom announced in mid-March.

The name of the deceased is not named, but as said the authorities of the state, the victim lived in the Silicon valley.

The location of the headquarters of the largest and richest IT companies in the world in recent years has become the most popular in the US, a place of concentration of homeless.

According to official statistics of the County of Santa Clara, is a valley where, from 2017 to 2019, the number of people living on the street increased from 7394 to 9706. The growth of the homeless population in the same County made up more than 30%.

This is due to the equable and warm climate, in San Francisco the average annual temperature is 23-25 degrees, so that living on the street is easier there than in new York, where cold winters.

According to estimates of the public organization National Alliance to End Homelessness, the country had no housing 552 800 people. A third of them families with children.

In mid-March in the United States began to impose restrictive measures because of the epidemic of the coronavirus, and the authorities in different cities began to disperse cities of the homeless.

In the United States, they often live in tent camps, the number of tents which can be from two to three to several hundred.

On 20 March the Governor of California Newsom announced the introduction of the state of the rigid quarantine ban on leaving the house, but as it turned out the same day, this order does not touch the homeless — they simply had no place to isolate.

On March 21, the state announced new rules for the homeless were day, from 8 a.m. until 10 p.m. to remove their tents from the streets, exposing them only at night.

According to the organization National Alliance to End Homelessness, the Governor was not feasible for the homeless — they simply do not remain places in order to put himself in order.

All space, existing in the state, filled, and in order to get there, you need to wait three to five weeks. Because of the epidemic of the coronavirus closed and free public space such as public libraries where the homeless can warm up and spend time.

The entire Los Angeles homeless five free toilets, although the government promised to give them a shower and points for washing hands. In San Jose 25 such points of hygiene for the homeless.

“In terms of the national quarantine and a ban on leaving the house we will not be able to provide enough security, if you do not take care of the people who live on the street”, — told Vox the President of the NGO National Low Income Housing Coalition Diane Intel.

Homeless people have higher risk of respiratory diseases. According to one survey, only in Washington, 32% were hospitalized with these diagnoses were homeless. Among ordinary people living at home such only 6.5%.

The head of the charity organization HomeFirst Andrea Urton says all homeless shelters, which she manages, is already overcrowded, and it is not possible to create new places for people living on the street.

New York. The homeless settled in hotels

New York will put about 2000 of their homeless residents in hotel rooms. This is to prevent the spread of coronavirus. Writes about this edition of Curbed.

About 2,000 homeless new Yorkers sleeping on streets and in city shelters, soon settled in a hotel room. This is to prevent the further spread of the coronavirus, said mayor bill de Blasio.

At a press conference on 11 April, the mayor announced that the 6,000 homeless will be transferred to the empty hotel room. 3500 of them have already been transferred to the hotels that were used as shelters prior to the beginning of the pandemic, and 500 have been isolated. The total number of people who will be transferred from overcrowded shelters to hotels, can reach about 2000 people.

Such measures the authorities have decided to take in response to the call of several non-profit groups advocating for people without a certain residence. Last week several of these groups — VOCAL-NY, Human.nyc, Safety Net and Picture the Homeless spoke to mayor urging them to take concrete steps to protect homeless people during a pandemic. In particular, they urged to place homeless people in 30 out of 100 of thousands of empty rooms at new York hotels.

Bill de Blasio said that by 20 April the residents of the shelters will be relocated to the hotel. He also stressed that in the first place in hotels will place the elderly and those who have confirmed COVID 19, or find the symptoms of the virus.

At the same time, the Department of homeless new York (The New York City Department of Homeless Services, DHS) stated that the city decided to avoid the mass migration of people from shelters into hotels, focusing on specific vulnerable population versts. “In some shelters a lot of space, some not — responded to this statement bill de Blasio. Where the Department of social security (DSS) and the Department of homeless (DHS) it is clear that social distancing could not be secured properly, some of these people will be transferred to the hotel”.

In addition, the mayor promised to provide new Yorkers sleeping on the streets and in the subway, 230 units of temporary housing. “We will diligently work to ensure that more and more people from the streets could settle in shelters, especially those who are older. It will be in the center of our attention in the coming weeks,” he said.

Representatives of groups advocating for the homeless, said that although the step taken in the right direction, much more should be done to prevent the spread of the virus.

It is noted that today more than 60 thousand homeless new Yorkers each night spend in shelters and on the street — more than 3,000 people.

Peter Malvan, a lawyer and a homeless new Yorker, said that the late reaction of the authorities to the problem of homeless in the context of the epidemic “will not stop the spread COVID-19”. “The sooner the mayor can offer 30 thousand single hotel rooms with private bathrooms all homeless in shelters and on the street, the better it will be for all the people of new York,” he added.

In addition, last week more than 150 new York city doctors have sent an open letter outlining a public health problem in homeless shelters. “Homeless new Yorkers more vulnerable to diseases, especially those that are in overcrowded shelters or on the streets, and those who become ill, more likely will be more severe the course of treatment, which will require more hospital resources and, ultimately, will lead to more deaths, the letter said. — Given the need to “flatten the curve” and keep the already strained hospital resources, we must intervene.”

Moscow. Response from the authorities has not yet been

The most pressing problem of the homeless in quarantine in Moscow is hunger.

“Partially closed points of feedings in connection with the announcement of the quarantine. Closed café closed restaurants, that is in the trash, where before people could afford something to find, or maybe helped them, these cafes and restaurants, something to give, now nothing can get. There are no people on the streets, begging for money and food is not one” — explains a press-the Secretary of service of assistance “Mercy” by Alexander Chibalin.

Early in “the Hangar of salvation” (is item day stay “Mercy”) came 100-150 people a day. Now comes 200 and all very hungry, says Shebalina.

The point was to open an hour early, and going there now it is not just at lunchtime and throughout the day.

Charitable organization “Nochlezhka” held the action “You are not alone”, leaving 60 packages with food at the stations and on the streets of Moscow and St. Petersburg. Inside — tea, candy, instant noodles, canned food and antiseptic.

“We had a large bottle, we bought a small bottle and poured antiseptic on these bottles” — said the head of the PR Department of the Foundation Kateryna Cheremisina.

“Kip” calls on the people in conditions of quarantine we have to go out to the stores, pharmacies and to work, to the extent possible to collect similar food parcels and leave them for homeless people at bus stops and benches.

The Fund “Fair use Dr. Lisa is” still travels once a week to the food Bank. The complex, according to the President of the Foundation Olga Demicheva — to queue in a hundred or two hundred people so the people kept a distance of half a meter.

“We must pay tribute to the guards, they do not interfere, even help sometimes,” says Demicheva about the cops. That the Moscow police have correctly refers to homeless people, say in social networks and residents.

Muscovite Ilya KLISHIN, who lives in the vicinity of the Boulevard, told bi-Bi-si, that a few times along the way for groceries has seen the homeless, dinner or playing cards in a fenced quarantine Boulevard or in parks.

“Passed by the municipal service and even the police, they obviously saw the homeless and did not react to them,” he says.

How many in Moscow and the lives of homeless people is unknown. Olga Demicheva, puts the number at 20 thousand people.

Daria baybakova, Director of the Moscow branch of “rooming house”, says that, according to various estimates, the homeless from 14 to 80 thousand, and it seems realistic estimate is closer to 80 thousand.

All of these people are extremely vulnerable to coronavirus, explains Baibakova. Homeless people have no way to isolate ourselves or carefully observe hygiene.

“Public spaces where homeless people can stay to wait out the night at the station, wash hands in the toilet shopping center is either closed or trying to avoid crowds,” says the expert.

“We wrote from the “rooming house” and the official address of the Governor of St. Petersburg, and the Department of labor and social protection of Moscow, and in state orphanages of Moscow and the Committee on social policy of St. Petersburg, continues Baibakova.

“In letters we ask the officials for two things: to deploy additional places for people to isolate themselves, and at least for the duration of a pandemic make it easier for people access government-run shelters. For example, in state shelters in Moscow, where the clock is located. To take only people with documents and recent registration in Moscow, and such people are very few,” she says.

Response from the authorities as yet, therefore, the funds have to cope on their own. In “the Hangar of salvation” a tent divided in two, says Alexandra Shabalina. Now one of the pieces designed for elderly and frail people who can be there, as long as you want.

Shelters, the heating point and the night bus “Shelters” continue to accept people, while the premises are devices that are used to disinfect operating rooms.

As told bi-Bi-si Olga Demicheva of the “Fair aid Dr. Lisa”, the Foundation has an agreement with hotel chain in Moscow, after sanitary treatment and the provision of information about the negative analysis of the coronavirus of the hotel will take several of the homeless to live.

The name of the network Demicheva requests not to publish: “I’m afraid to expose them, because suddenly it will cause then to him squeamish attitude. We decided: they’re going to take a trial batch of people, very small — six people, and in a week, if they see that suffering is not the property of the hotel, they already open their doors widely”.

Overall, explains Daria baybakova, aid in a pandemic need to increase significantly — and perhaps not only for quarantine but also for the future: people have money because of the crisis may be less.

Someone may no longer be able to rent an apartment, someone will go from the regions to seek jobs in big cities and can also be on the street.

Homeless people after the pandemic coronavirus in Russia may become more.

London. Self-isolation in hotels

According to the charity Shelter in the UK about 300 thousand homeless, 9 thousand (and about half of them in London) are sleeping on the streets.

Homeless sleep in the subway, subways, shopping malls. In the warm season they sleep on the street.

People released from prison or have lost all due to family conflicts, alcohol and hard drugs, some migrants who could not find in the UK work from home.

Work with homeless charities: supply them with clothing and food, to normal a streamlined process.

Many people living on the streets of London, equipped not worse than the audience in the tourists hike. But have a pandemic coronavirus, and these people became one of the most vulnerable groups of risk.

With the beginning of the pandemic the authorities about the homeless are not forgotten. The government asked them to leave to the isolation in the empty hotels now.

The mayor of London, rented for the homeless 300 hotel rooms over the next 12 weeks and asked the administration of the city to solve the problem with the placement of the others.

But we cannot say that this was the perfect solution.

In the London borough of Newham to the East of Central London, the largest concentration of homeless. Usually they spend all day in the city and come to spend the night in a shopping center near the metro station “Hull”.

This center serves as an entry to the metro, therefore, is open around the clock. Dozens, and sometimes hundreds of homeless people slept here at night series.

On 2 April there remained only one man looks about 45 by the name of Damon. “Why should I be isolated if all around and so isolated,” he laughs.

Damon says that he, like all others, was offered a place at the hotel, but he refused, because he lives here for three years, and he likes it. And coronavirus he does not believe.

The mayor of Newham Roxanne Fiat ordered the closure of the Mall at night and the homeless to settle, removing about 70 rooms in hotels. But even such solutions is not enough.

Reached here, the other homeless people, knowing that there by the authorities to settle in the hotel. Rooms still small, and most importantly, they need not only to them.

The hotels here are also populated with doctors who will work in a large hospital, which was altered to the London Excel exhibition centre. And, obviously, the priority goes to the doctors and nurses.

Moreover, not all hotels in London want such guests — many from heroin or alcohol dependence.

Some, for example, the budget hotel chain Travelodge, initially thought to be homeless, and then asked to leave, explaining that close. Authorities have asked not to do it, but the conflict continues and there is no solution.

“The city offered homeless accommodation? Where are they, show me them!” — swears in an interview with Bi-bi-si the head of a charitable organization Nishkam SWAT Randeep Loll.

His organization in West London for food and use daily came usually a few dozen people. “On Tuesday, 100 Wednesday — 180, I don’t know what else to expect,” says Loll.

According to him, of the little, and the police requires him to stray not gathered here in such numbers: “They’re crazy, like I’m in control”.

“Many will not survive this spring. All my experience, all my instincts tell me about it. They die, without waiting for help,” says Randeep Loll.

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