Although no cases of COVID-19 have been confirmed as of Friday afternoon in the Santa Clarita Valley homeless population, Bridge to Home has officially moved into a temporary new home to improve social distancing.
Earlier this month, the Los Angeles County Homeless Services Authority announced its plans to ramp up its outreach and support for these communities within the county.
In addition to expanding the total number of isolation beds to 2,000 for those members of the homeless population who need to be put into isolation, LAHSA also identified new locations for more than 300 mobile hygiene stations for people living outdoors.
They also deployed 18 mobile shower facilities in the county.
A little over a week ago, Gov. Gavin Newsom announced he would be giving a total of $100 million to local governments in order to shelter the homeless.
The reason? Homeless populations are considered some of the most at risk during the coronavirus outbreak.
“The coronavirus vulnerability component is people who have underlying medical conditions or are over the age of 65,” said Michael Foley, director at Bridge to Home. “So, we can count amongst the 60 people we have at the shelter, 20 people who fit those categories.”
Foley said that another factor playing into the susceptibility of homeless populations is the fact that increased stress levels can put you more at risk.
“If people have been experiencing long periods of homelessness on the street, they have a much higher mortality, and earlier mortality rate, than other people,” said Foley. “(Shelter officials) want to take as many precautions because illness can sweep through a population.”
Bridge to Home, Santa Clarita’s homeless shelter, worked with the city of Santa Clarita to move from their current location at Drayton Street to the Newhall Community Center.
“We’ve only had two people that have had the flu, and one person was tested for coronavirus,” said Foley, adding that at the Drayton center they had a room set aside for three beds that could be used for someone needing isolation. “(But they) tested negative, and so they went into that space and recovered.”
The center takes the shelter’s formerly more tight sleeping arrangements and allows them to spread out more. And although a number of the restaurants and local groups that used to provide them with meals were unable to continue the charity, a number of others have been able to step up.
Bridge to Home has not yet missed a meal, Foley said.
“So far, we’ve been blessed,” said Foley. “We continue to encourage everyone as best as we can possibly to encourage.”