California Governor Gavin Newsom allocated $50 million from the state’s emergency fund to provide shelters for self-isolation and treatment for those without homes during the coronavirus pandemic.
A reported 75 percent of the homeless population live on the street, where they are at increased risk of contracting and spreading the virus.
Andrew Bales is CEO of a homeless outreach and recovery organization called Union Rescue Mission, which is located in the Skid Row neighborhood of downtown Los Angeles.
“The way I know right now it’s being laid out is hotels are being rented,” Bales told Arab News. “That’s where we’re going to send our most vulnerable from a mission on the streets of Skid Row. People are moving from there to a hotel where the hotels are being set up like missions: Different levels of care like a hospital.”
One of the early plans to house the estimated 113,000 homeless population was a fleet of 1,300 recreational vehicles across California, with one of the camps at a closed-off beach in Los Angeles.
“They didn’t work out practically,” said Bales. “They were too costly to rent. They didn’t work out great for being accessible. The wind was blowing strong. I just heard this from a nurse. The wind was blowing strong. Everybody felt the sand pelting them so they actually closed those down at Dockweiler Beach in El Segundo. Moved it to Bell Gardens.”
Hotel rooms have so far proved to be a better solution, with greater privacy, accessibility and the ability to be converted into nursing clinics. The effects of this funding can already be seen on the empty streets of Skid Row, a sign that people are safely indoors.
“Could we be at 40 percent have a roof over their heads and 60 percent are still in the streets? I can’t take account of that,” said Bales. “But I think by the time all this is over perhaps it could be reversed: 75 percent could be under a roof for good and 25 percent still on the streets, and we’ll just keep working until we become a society that doesn’t leave one precious human being on the streets.”