Effort underway to help homeless self-isolate amid outbreak

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DENVER — While Coloradans are being told to stay inside, that order is nearly impossible to follow for thousands in the community who live outside. 

“People experiencing homelessness are not more likely to be carriers of COVID-19. However, if they do contract the virus they are two times more likely to need hospital care,” said Cathy Alderman with Colorado Coalition for the Homeless. 

Two patients at the Stout Street Health Center have tested positive. More than 80 others have been tested. 

An effort between the coalition and the city is now underway to give homeless who are suffering from symptoms a place to stay. 

“Right now our shelters really can’t implement social distancing so we need to find ways to de-densify those space,” Alderman said. 

The city has set aside 60 motel rooms to help.

“It’s for somebody who is awaiting test results and doesn’t have a home to self isolate in or somebody who has tested positive and needs a place to isolate and recover,” Alderman said. 

Half of the motel rooms are already occupied. 

“We are trying to procure and bring on as many rooms as possible. We hope that early next week we’ll have an additional hundred rooms,” she said. 

For those who aren’t sick, City Council approved $3.5 million for more mobile restrooms, sinks with soap and showers to help those living on the streets stay clean. The city has also opened rec centers as additional day shelter space to ease crowding in the rest of the shelters. 

“But we’re looking for maybe a bigger space where we can use public health guidelines to ind of set up appropriate beds and services,” Alderman said. 

No space has been secured yet but city officials are looking into options like the convention center, arenas or other large facilities in the metro area. 

“I think it’s critically important that we find spaces for people to be in that aren’t those crowded shelters as soon as possible to prevent the spread,” she said. 

Denver is seeking volunteers to help in the additional shelter spaced. If you’d like to help you can email mimi.scheurmann@denvergov.org

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