The Maricopa County Department of Human Services is spearheading an effort with local agencies to develop an approach to addressing the COVID-19 pandemic within the homeless community.
“We need to focus on the crisis in front of us and continue to work together," District 5 Supervisor Steve Gallardo said in a news release. "This is a difficult issue, but it is critical we make sure we protect the most vulnerable in our community. The County Human Services team has the full support of the board to work with partners to reduce the risk of the spread of COVID-19 among people experiencing homelessness.”
In addition to providing handwashing stations and advising on screening procedures at the human services campus, officials are making sure organizations have access to personal protective equipment, according to a county news release.
Beginning the week of April 20, some of those experiencing homelessness in high risk categories will be asked to move to the former A New Leaf facility, and a medical tent with 48 overflow beds for non-symptomatic individuals has been created at Circle the City, 333 W. Indian School Road, Phoenix, adding to the 50-bed capacity already available on the human services campus, 204 S. 12th Ave., Phoenix, according to the county. The county has also secured hotel space at two locations for 53 additional beds for people at high risk of severe symptoms from COVID-19.
“These temporary measures meet the goal of reducing the risk of spreading COVID-19 among the homeless population,” said Bruce Liggett, human services department director, in a news release. “Our regional partners have been instrumental in helping us increase the system by almost 200 beds.”
Locally, Chandler nonprofits have been working to serve the city's homeless population during the COVID-19 outbreak. Trinity Donovan, the CEO at AZCEND, which operates in Chandler and Gilbert, said the nonprofit has been working to provide shelter and minimize the movement of guests to stop the spread of the virus.
The nonprofit runs a program called I-HELP, which stands for Interfaith Homeless Emergency Lodging Program, and with the partnership of more than 15 host congregations, the nonprofit provides shelter to those experiencing homelessness every day of the year.
"In order to minimize movement of guests, we have one site providing all the shelter right now, but we have other congregations and volunteers getting the meals ready for these folks," Donovan said. "The congregation that is allowing us to stay there, everything else is closed at their site. They have a large area so guests are able to practice social distancing."
Donovan said they are not accepting new participants in order to limit new exposure to current guests.