California houses homeless in hotels to prevent coronavirus spread 

Some 75 percent of the homeless population in Los Angeles live on the street, where they are at increased risk of contracting the coronavirus. (AFP)
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Updated 19 April 2020

California houses homeless in hotels to prevent coronavirus spread 

  • California's governor Gavin Newsom allocated $50 million from the state’s emergency fund to provide shelters

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.”


Over 200,000 vote in Hong Kong’s pro-democracy primaries

Updated 12 July 2020

Over 200,000 vote in Hong Kong’s pro-democracy primaries

  • Exercise being held two weeks after Beijing imposed a sweeping national security law on the semi-autonomous territory

HONG KONG: Hundreds of thousands of Hong Kongers turned up over the weekend to vote in an unofficial two-day primary election held by the city’s pro-democracy camp as it gears up to field candidates for an upcoming legislative poll.
The exercise is being held two weeks after Beijing imposed a sweeping national security law on the semi-autonomous territory in a move widely seen as chipping away at the “one country, two systems” framework under which Britain handed Hong Kong over to China in 1997. It was passed in response to last year’s massive protests calling for greater democracy and more police accountability.
Throngs of people lined up at polling booths in the summer heat to cast their vote despite a warning by Hong Kong’s constitutional affairs minister, Eric Tsang last week that the primaries could be in breach of the new national security law, because it outlaws interference and disruption of duties by the local government.
Organizers have dismissed the comments, saying they just want to hold the government accountable by gaining a majority in the legislature.
The legislation prohibits what Beijing views as secessionist, subversive or terrorist activities or as foreign intervention in Hong Kong affairs. Under the law, police now have sweeping powers to conduct searches without warrants and order Internet service providers and platforms to remove messages deemed to be in violation of the legislation.
On Friday, police raided the office of the Public Opinion Research Institute, a co-organizer of the primary elections. The computer system was suspected of being hacked, causing a data leak, police said in a statement, and an investigation is ongoing.
Hong Kong’s pro-democracy camp, which includes multiple parties, is attempting to join forces and use the primaries as a guide to field the best candidates in the official legislative election in September. Its goal is to win a majority in the legislature, which is typically skewed toward the pro-Beijing camp.
To hold the primary elections, pro-democracy activists had raised money via crowd funding. They pledged to veto the government’s budget if they clinch a majority in the legislature. Under the Basic Law, under which Hong Kong is governed, city leader Carrie Lam must resign if an important bill such as the budget is vetoed twice.
On Saturday alone, nearly 230,000 people voted at polling booths set up across the city, exceeding organizers’ estimates of a 170,000 turnout over the weekend.