For People Experiencing Homelessness
Contra Costa Health Services is Working to Protect Homeless Residents from COVID-19
As Contra Costa Health Services (CCHS) responds to the COVID-19 pandemic, we want to keep you updated about how we’re working to protect county residents who are experiencing homelessness.
The 2020 Point In Time Count found that Contra Costa County had 2,277 individuals experiencing homelessness. People experiencing homelessness often live in close quarters such as shelters, or they live outside and lack the ability to maintain basic hygiene, such as hand washing. They may also face more danger from serious infection due to existing illnesses with the potential to make a case of COVID-19 more severe.
Over the past few years, the County and our non-profit partners have been working tirelessly to end homelessness for those currently on the streets and proactively working to prevent homelessness. From 2015 through 2019, we helped more than 6,900 homeless persons obtain permanent housing. The epidemic has made an already critical mission even more urgent.
So far there have been no reported outbreaks at county shelters or camps, but we are prepared.
Steps to Stop the Spread
The County Health Services Department (CCHS) has taken extensive efforts to prevent the spread of the coronavirus to the homeless populations in our community.
Under the County’s Public Health Officer order to shelter in place, businesses that provide food, shelter, social services, and other necessities for economically disadvantaged or otherwise needy individuals are considered essential businesses and continue to operate and support partners;
All existing shelters continue to operate 24/7, screening staff and residents for symptoms, and are emphasizing social distancing;
CORE outreach teams and Healthcare for the Homeless street medicine teams continue their daily work to provide basic safety and hygiene supplies, symptom screening, and education to persons living outside.
Guidance documents and flyers have been developed for homeless service providers operating congregate living facilities and/or conducting outreach to persons living in encampments on how to identify and respond to ill residents.
Expanding Housing Options for Homeless Individuals Needing Quarantine or Isolation
Congregate shelters, where many people shelter together in one space, present a risk for quick spread of the virus.
Under the State of California’s Project Roomkey initiative, CCHS has secured more than 300 rooms in recent weeks for people who live in congregate shelters or encampments who are awaiting test results, or those living in shelters who are considered at high risk due to age or health.
CCHS’ Division of Health, Housing and Homeless Services (H3) recently relocated 150 high-risk residents from shelters across the county to some of those rooms so they can better isolate from others and practice the physical distancing required by recent health orders.
Moving clients also enables us to prepare the Concord shelter and adjoining Phillip Dorn Respite Center as an alternate care site for COVID-19 patients if our hospital system becomes overwhelmed.
The Craneway Pavilion in Richmond has already been equipped with 250 beds for COVID-positive patients who do not require hospitalization. Should a surge require the facility to open, COVID-positive patients are likely to be housed at the Craneway first, but Concord Shelter and other community sites are also in our plans.
We know that even this effort will not meet the shelter needs of every resident of Contra Costa County. As such, the resources are being prioritized for individuals/households who meet the following criteria:
Persons living in congregate facilities who need isolation as they await COVID-19 test results as well as those who have tested positive for the virus; and
Persons who are at highest risk due to age or underlying medical conditions that put them at higher risk of severe illness.
Caring for the Unsheltered
On the street, we are doing our best to keep people living outdoors healthy and educated about COVID-19. We have asked local police agencies not to displace encampments during the pandemic to reduce the spread of the virus.
Our Public Health street medicine teams continue to operate, and our CORE outreach teams have been delivering hand sanitizer and health guidance to encampments to help reduce the risk of residents getting sick. Residents who do not have housing, along with healthcare workers and first responders, remain among our highest priority patients for testing.
We are partnering with some cities to place handwashing stations and portable toilets in areas frequented by people living outside. We’ve also provided single-person tents for some high-risk clients, if they are unwilling to move inside when recommended by our medical team.
Our Partners Are Key
Another key piece of our response plan is you, our partners in the community. Communication and collaboration are key to weathering this health emergency.
Health, Housing, and Homeless Services hosts weekly calls with homeless service providers to stay connected, share updates on COVID-19 related activities, and learn about the needs of providers and consumers.
Please let us know how you are doing, and what you need to help keep your staff and clients safe and healthy.