More than a dozen homeless individuals sheltering with Bridge to Home at the Newhall Community Center have tested positive for COVID-19, prompting quarantine efforts at the site, officials announced Wednesday.
A total of 17 people have contracted the virus and are not presenting symptoms but they have been transferred to a Pomona-based shelter designated to welcome in COVID patients, according to a Bridge to Home news release.
Bridge to Home is one of eight homeless service settings across Los Angeles County with reported outbreaks of 10-34 cases at each site. The Santa Clarita Valley is also facing more than a dozen other outbreaks at non-residential settings, including 10 businesses with cases ranging between six to 33 among workers.
“From the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, people who are experiencing homelessness have been identified as high-risk,” Bridge to Home Executive Director Michael Foley said in a prepared statement. “We have taken the recommended and necessary steps to keep our clients safe and healthy, and we are fortunate that we hadn’t had any positive cases until recently. We will continue to keep our safety protocols in place and continue to provide the services and resources our most vulnerable neighbors so desperately need during this time.”
The nonprofit organization’s intake services department will remain open but new clients seeking shelter will be referred to other sites as those who have been exposed at the shelter quarantine, officials added.
Foley emphasized that, despite efforts to keep the virus “at bay,” homeless shelters still fall victim to outbreaks, reiterating this “highlights how crucial it is for the vaccine to arrive to all congregant care settings as soon as possible.”
The announcement comes as Gov. Gavin Newsom announced over the weekend that the Federal Emergency Management Agency would fund California’s Project Roomkey through the duration of the pandemic as some locations have already closed down and as Los Angeles County continues to operate 18 sites with about 2,380 clients.
“All told, 55 counties and three tribes have participated in Project Roomkey — consisting of over 300 hotels, 16,000 rooms, and 1,300 trailers spread around the state,” said Newsom in a Dec. 18 letter to project partners.
A Canyon Country Super 8, which offers more than four dozen beds for homeless individuals, has remained operating at full capacity since it first opened in April.
The contract was set to expire in July of this year and was extended through March 2021, according to Foley. Bridge to Home has helped in the operations of the motel.
“We had an extension to March so we hadn’t had to experience a significant rush,” he said. “By March, we will be well into the vaccine, so I think we’re just taking it month to month.”
Since its opening, only one case of COVID-19 has been reported at the Super 8, Foley confirmed.
Bridge to Home, which has pledged to house 30 homeless people by Jan. 5 through its Project 30 initiative, is asking community members to volunteer their time virtually. Needed are those who would like to entertain outdoors at a safe distance or provide meals and hygiene donations that would be accepted via contactless delivery.
For volunteer opportunities, contact Volunteer Coordinator Randi Wyatt-Billings at [email protected] and for more information visit btohome.org or call 661-254-4663.