Santa Clara County says homeless with COVID-19 have temporary shelter, push to reach more of region's un-housed

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Saturday, April 4, 2020
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The Bay Area's hardest-hit county now has temporary shelter for homeless people who have tested positive for COVID-19. This comes as Santa Clara County strengthens its mission to help more of the region's un-housed community.

SAN JOSE, Calif. (KGO) -- Santa Clara County announced Friday, every homeless person who has tested positive for COVID-19 now has temporary shelter.

The effort continues to reach more of the region's un-housed, as the virus continues to spread.

RELATED: Santa Clara County opens fairground, trailers for homeless to social distance amid COVID-19 crisis

Santa Clara County is not only the Bay Area's most populous county, but it remains the hardest hit by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Now, leaders and county-wide agencies are expanding resources for the region's homeless population. Specifically, all known un-housed people who have tested positive for the virus.

"We owe them the same dignity, the same healthcare, the same respect," Supervisor Dave Cortese told ABC7 News. "And I think that's what you're seeing in today's announcement that we're going to put a full-court press on, and make sure that they're getting the education, the information they need immediately."

According to a release, the Director of the County's Office of Supportive Housing, Ky Le, is leading this work as part of the County's Emergency Operations Center.

Also announced: "The County is working in close partnership with the Silicon Valley Community Foundation, Destination: Home, and the City of San Jose, and other partners to provide assistance to the neediest members of our community during this challenging time."

"Just to tell them to shelter-in-place doesn't provide them the kind of support system they need," Sup. Cortese said. "It doesn't help up with testing and screening and so forth. So, a lot more needs to be done. I think what you're seeing today is the beginning of a response from the county that continues to increase, we'll continue to mobilize with respect to the homeless community."

Sup. Cortese said the county is launching a massive education effort to reach more of the un-housed.

RELATED: Coronavirus: San Francisco's battle to house the homeless continues amid pandemic

He's also spoken with the County Executive to discuss other ways to make an impact.

"I reemphasized the need to have mobile testing stations outside of every encampment, so we can screen people. We can divert people and quarantine people as needed. That should be happening soon," he said.

Other conversations considered different ways the county could mobilize some of its ambulance services to help with that effort.

On Friday, Governor Gavin Newsom announced help for the homeless is a top priority.

"What we want to do is relieve the stress in our shelter system, so that we could separate individuals and ultimately relieve the impact on our medical care delivery system," Gov. Newsom said. "If left unaddressed, we allow our most vulnerable residents in the state of California to be exposed to this virus."

Already, Santa Clara County has opened a temporary site at the fairgrounds for 60 people.

RELATED: COVID-19 could be deadly to Bay Area's homeless population

The City of San Jose confirms 75 beds were set up at Parkside Hall, which opened Wednesday. Additionally, South Hall is expected to open Monday.

More than 100 trailers from the state were delivered to the South Bay, and will be used to temporarily shelter homeless and unstably housed residents in the coming weeks.

All existing and seasonal shelters remain operational.

The City of San Jose's safe parking programs are also operating 24/7, and Overnight Warming Locations will soon follow.

According to San Jose officials, plans will add 818 beds to the region's shelter capacity.

RELATED: San Francisco's The Liberties Bar makes it easy to give a meal to someone in need

Supervisor Cortese says residents in the county should be commended.

"By and large, here in the South Bay, people are doing the right thing," he said. "And I think we're seeing the results of that in lower mortality rates per capita than you see anywhere else in the nation right now."

He continued, "We were first in the nation to downsize events, and then we were first in the nation to gradually implement a shelter in place order. This is the second version of that, you know we're into essentially the second month of shelter-in-place."

Next, the county and various agencies will work to continue to expand shelter and motel capacity, increase education and screening for individuals without shelter.

"We generally are taking groups of 20 to 25 homeless at a time, booking them into hotel rooms with hotel vouchers- prepaid hotel rooms- especially if they need to be quarantined," Cortese added.

Gov. Newsom said Friday, "We've identified roughly 7,000 hotel rooms that are now in our possession- where we have occupancy agreements- and we are now building partnerships throughout the State of California to begin to get this folks into these sites."

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