A Erickson doesn't look like your typical homeless person. He was once a counselor for teenagers in trouble. But these days he lives on the streets after falling on hard times. The torn it takes on a body, physically, psychologically and emotionally, you know, having to get back and forth just to get breakfast, lunch, dinner, clothing, shelter. Now there is COVID-19. Not having cleaning agents or disinfectants and spaces in regardless of where it is. I think opens up the potential for people to get the infection. Erickson is one of nearly 600,000 homeless people in the United States based on the most recent official count. In a pandemic they are at special risk. Of the 527 COVID-19 deaths in Washington 20 where homeless people. As a group, they risk of death is about double that of the overall population. As folks come in and as we do checks throughout the day. If folks say that they're feeling symptomatic, we'll take them out of the population of the shelters and we'll bring them to one of our isolation and quarantine sites. And we'll test them there. If that comes back positive, then we'll go back and we'll find the close contacts for that person and also ask them to come into our isolation and quarantine as well.
Around the country, officials had to stop shelters from becoming a breeding ground. About a couple weeks into the pandemic, people quickly realized that it was spreading inside shelters very very very fast. And a lot of the focus was to do what we call de-concentrate shelters. So they started moving people out of shelters into larger spaces. Some jurisdictions rented arenas and others in hotel rooms. 61 year-old Mary Montalvo lives in a nearby park, she gets food and hygiene products from local nonprofits and churches. But a new mask that is tougher. They try give one I'd say every second or third day. But many of the people, we're lose them. Where do you go if you need to wash your hands? That's very difficult. Go inside the church here. But I have some cleanser that I carry in my jacket and I use that. COVID-19 has made it harder for those like Michael Williams who's looking for work. The centers have adopted strict social distancing. It takes extra long to get services you need because they only allow one person at a time. Without these spaces, it's kind of hard. I'm not able to apply for jobs. I can't get any income. And this is crazy. US unemployment is that a staggering 14 percent. A Columbia University study projects the homeless population may grow 40 to 45 percent this year. I expect that if unemployment continues to stretch for a long period of time, that we will start to see decreases in rent payments.And we will start to see eviction. The US Department of Housing and Urban Development has announced almost three billion dollars in aid for homeless Americans and those at risk of loosing housing. But that's just temporary. In the capital housing is really expensive. And so until we start addressing how to have steady employment that pays closer to the cost of housing, were gonna keep seeing this crisis of homelessness. Marry Montalvo has been homeless eight times in 20 years. There is sufficient money in the United State to help the people who are homeless. It's just the distribution of those moneys The wealthiers are getting wealthier and they're ignoring poor. VOA Volaki Wana Iglesias Washington