Long Beach commits to protect those experiencing homelessness from the spread of COVID-19

In this file photo, homeless individuals set camp at bus stops or in miscellaneous nooks and crannies on First Street, near Long Beach Boulevard, taken at around 3am on Friday, Jan. 4. The man in this photo said he did not want to be identified.

The City of Long Beach has committed itself to protect those experiencing homelessness as well as those providing services to them from the spread of COVID-19 by taking new measures.

Some public facilities have closed temporarily across the city, but all City facilities and services for folks experiencing homelessness such as the Winter Shelter, the Multi-Service Center and Safe Parking Program are open.

“Protecting and supporting people experiencing homelessness is critical as they are some of the most vulnerable in our community,” Mayor Robert Garcia said in a press release. “Our Homeless Services team is working hard to ensure we continue to deliver the best care and services possible during this public health emergency.”

According to Jennifer De Prez, media relations for City of Long Beach Joint Information Center, the City is providing direct, in-person services including educational outreach in order to share relevant information about COVID-19 with folks experiencing homelessness within the Long Beach community.

“The Multi Service Center and Winter Shelter have posted educational signage specifically related to COVID-19, available in multiple languages, in front of and throughout their facilities,” De Prez said in a statement to the Signal Tribune. “We are also working with partnering agencies for them to display and distribute this signage at their facilities, in an effort to further disseminate this information, and are continuing to provide extensive updates via the City’s social media, website and other platforms.”

De Prez added that outreach workers are canvassing the city daily in an effort to distribute educational materials to folks experiencing homelessness and discussing preventative measures with individuals.

Sanitation kits are also being distributed during daily outreach.

Deputy City Manager Teresa Chandler said in a press release that the City is not aware of any COVID-19 cases among folks experiencing homelessness.

“The COVID-19 outbreak has compounded what was already a dire situation for persons experiencing homelessness,” Chandler said. “[…]We stand ready to respond if such a case presents itself to any of our facilities or if we become aware of that situation in an encampment.”

Earlier this week, Gov. Gavin Newsom said in a press conference that the California state government was acquiring private hotels and motels to shelter those experiencing homelessness in an effort to slow the spread of COVID-19, Long Beach is currently exploring a variety of options to determine what will best fit the needs of the city.

“We continue to take all suggested actions seriously, and are looking into the feasibility of moving forward with such suggestions,” De Prez said. “For the short term, the City is actively seeking and identifying locations for isolation, if needed, for people who are experiencing homelessness who display symptoms of illness.”

The Homeless Services team, which is a division of the Health and Human Services Department has released the following guidelines to help minimize the spread of the virus:

• Installing soap dispensers, hand-washing stations or hand sanitizer stations at strategic locations throughout the city, including public restrooms.

• Outreach by City teams to provide direct, in-person services and educate the community about how to recognize the symptoms of COVID-19 and what to do if one begins experiencing those symptoms.

• New protocols by the Winter Shelter and Multi-Service Center, including disinfecting frequently touched objects, providing masks to clients who are coughing, installing hand sanitizer and hand-washing stations to ensure good hygiene and posting educational signage in multiple languages. Shower services remain available with social distancing protocols in place.

• Homeless Services will distribute sanitation kits to people experiencing homelessness.

• Identifying isolation rooms to house people experiencing homelessness who exhibit symptoms. The City will pay for the cost of quarantine, should the need arise.

• Instituting precautions for all employees engaged in providing in-person services to people experiencing homelessness, including observing social distancing, wearing masks and stepping up sanitation procedures before and after each interaction.

To keep up with more updates directly from the city check the latest information at: http://www.longbeach.gov/COVID19

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