S1E18 / Without Shelter in a Storm / Rosanne Haggerty, Jake Maguire, and Cindy Funkhouser
I'm Dr Celine Gown her. And I'm Ron claim. And this is epidemic. Today is Tuesday may twelfth in today's episode. We're going to talk about what it means to be homeless in America. In the time of cloven cities across the nation are struggling with how to pry people shelter from the storm and how to keep the homeless safe in New York City. The subways are closing for four hours every night for disinfection but for many homeless. The subways are refuge now. Police officers are sending them to shelters were more than seven hundred have tested positive for corona virus in recent weeks and if they refuse they end up on the streets. Meanwhile cities like Boston. Los Angeles San Francisco and Seattle and others have seen large clusters of coverted outbreaks and crowded homeless shelters. Las Vegas had close a shelter due to a quota virus outbreak and they had the homeless people sleep in squares painted on the ground and a parking lot at the same time that Las Vegas is a city with more than one hundred and forty seven thousand hotel rooms. Most of which were vacant in this episode we'll hear from three advocates who were already working before. Co Vid to end homelessness. Dale explain how their jobs have gotten a whole lot harder for many of us. The covert pandemic has meant staying at home and social distancing. But how are people supposed to shelter in place when they don't even have a roof over their heads? Rosanne haggerty is the founder of community solutions in New York. She says the corona virus is laying bare some hard truths about homelessness in this country. One of the things that makes this moment so perilous for the homeless in particular is the degree of underlying health conditions and also the tragic reality that homelessness is very disproportionately a racial issue. Thirteen percent of our our national population has African American More than thirty upwards to forty percent of those experiencing homelessness are African American and the same disproportionate found in native Americans and so we are all seeing what that means as far as vulnerability to this virus community solutions works in more than eighty cities and counties across the country. Rosanna her colleagues see firsthand that stereotypes about who's homeless often clash with reality. One of the things that is often forgotten is that for most people. Homelessness is a brief a personally resolved experience. It does not become a way of life and even communities with very high rates of homelessness it represents a relatively small fraction of the we have seen over and over again the need to break this myth that it's about individuals in their problems. It so plainly. A public health issue of a system. That's failed as the economic effects of the pandemic widen local and federal governments are trying to protect people from being coming homeless by halting evictions in some places but in other places Evictions Continue With homelessness already a public health disaster in some cities across the country. The worry now is that Kovic will only compound the difficult lives of those without homes. The risk of massive new homelessness Happening across the country as Eviction Moratoria are lifted. It's also a moment to C- landlords as potential allies in finding local solutions. We are just needing to find common cause with nontraditional partners perhaps around making sure that prevention of homelessness becomes a collective responsibility and communities whether that means Working out payment plans and connecting the dots between different organizations resources the need for data on people who are experiencing homelessness is more important now than ever the US though we measure homelessness only once a year with volunteers going out and counting the homeless on a single night in January they walk the streets block by block. And take a tally. But this method often undercounts the number of people who are experiencing homelessness and certainly can't tell us what's going on in the country right now but community solutions has alternative approach Jake. Maguire Co director of the built for Zero Initiative community solutions is working with communities nationwide on a data driven approach to ending homelessness. They're creating a database on. Who's homeless on any given day almost changes every day right? It's dynamic a number from eleven months ago doesn't tell you much about what's happening in your community now even if you did have a good number that number is completely anonymous so it doesn't actually tell you anything about who you're dealing with or what those people might need to get out of homelessness so you've got to have real time data once a year. I think that's never been clearer. A that it then right now in the midst of this cove nineteen pandemic stay at home and shelter in place. Orders are impossible to follow. If you don't have a home Cova does highlighted. The cracks are social supports for people experiencing homelessness. Where are people supposed to go? The shelters are crowded if they don't feel safe if they're afraid of getting corona virus in the shelters. There is a ton of vacant hotel and Motel space in communities right now and so. Are there ways to repurpose? That stays to stand up rapidly. Quarantine in isolation units for people experiencing homelessness especially when social distancing means we have to spread people out in our shelters and can accommodate far fewer people in Congress settings like that but that raises its own host of other challenges. And you know. How do we secure those those hotels? What about insurance? This is sort of a change abuse. Maybe for hotels are they can be comfortable Turning their their hotels into sort of mini hospitals are sick facilities. Who's GONNA stand for all these units? We've got trained street outreach. Workers that doesn't mean they're prepared to do clinical work in units. What about keep e? Even hospitals can't get enough personal protective equipment so these are the challenges that communities are confronting right now as they try to figure out how to help people save. Many states across the country are closing large shelters and evacuating the residents of those shelters to try to prevent the spread of covert. Meanwhile the White House is telling some shelters to resist such local evacuation orders. As with the Corona Virus Response Itself the approach to homelessness in the face of this epidemic has been all over the place but some cities are taking a public health approach to the housing problem understanding that without a home. It's hard for someone to take care of themselves and their health and this is a public health problem with a pretty straightforward answer. The Cure to homelessness is housing so at the beginning and I mean like the first week when we called a few hotels in downtown Jacksonville. They were like thanks. But no thanks. But at this point We now have hotels calling almost every single day and so the hotels that we utilize or ones that we were already utilizing anyway because we put in hotels all the time so we utilize our friends and the people that we know So they've been really good about it. We deal some extended stay hotel so the people would have a kitchen. So that industry I would say by and large has been extremely receptive and supportive of us and very happy to have the business. That's Sadi funkhouser. She's the CEO of Souls Backer Center in Jacksonville Florida. She's been working to get permanent for people who are experiencing homelessness. The Souls Becker Center provides a wide range of services including healthcare mental health and substance abuse treatment. Ged classes in day care for their clients. They're trying to give people to help. They need to get back on their feet. These days Cindy her colleagues are focused on the most basic of needs trying to give people a safe haven in the middle of a pandemic. It's scary for everybody but imagine yourself being someone that can't socially isolate that has no home That doesn't have a TV and doesn't know what's going on. And all of a sudden everyone has disappeared from the downtown city of Jacksonville. There's not a lot of residents in our downtown except for homeless people so when everybody disappeared and is like a ghost town. I can only imagine The anxiety level of those folks like many healthcare providers. The Salts Backer Center has struggled to provide corona virus testing to its patients but the stakes are even higher when you're working with people who are homeless in a shelter environment because it's communal living if it starts going through a shelter. We're in very big trouble because it would be almost impossible to stop so. That's our my fear and our fear as homeless providers in Jacksonville. This is what keeps city up at night. There's a big shelter in Boston. That tested about two ago. The entire shelter about little over five hundred people a hundred forty seven of them tested positive and not a single one had symptoms. Cindy's talking about the Pine Street in in Boston back. When I was in residency many of my patients came from or went back to the Pine Street in so this really hit home for me. Every single person was a symptom attic. And that's our fear is that we have a symptomatic people living in our shelters and so that's why we were very concerned that we were not able to get testing. I've been beating my head against the wall for six weeks begging anyone and everyone to give us tests. We have people living in all of our shelters in communal Spaces if Cova nineteen started spreading through a shelter. You know it. It would go like gangbusters just like I mean even worse than the nursing homes when you think about it because at least people they are in private rooms. We have people sleeping. You know right next to each other in bunk beds you know. That's how communal shelters that's how they're laid out. The souls. Backer Center recently began testing the homeless population in Jacksonville for covert so far. They have not found positive cases but they're collaborating with other organizations and the hotel industry to put a plan in place in case there's an outbreak and it's really the closest that the homeless providers have ever worked together. We've always had good collaboration. But it's really we're in lockstep now and it is just the homeless providers either. It's the Jacksonville Sheriff's Office. It's the hospitals. It's a cross-sector. It's our Jacksonville Transportation Authority. So we have a real good cross sector of people working on that task force unfortunately not every public official in every city feels the same way about Kobe testing. Here's Jake McGuire. I'M NOT GONNA name names if it's okay but we have had several conversations with communities trying to make Testing and partnerships will national testing companies available to them and you can separate communities into camps. One is where local elected officials say. Yes the more testing the better. How soon can we get started? You know in in Places like a Detroit and Seattle when they mass tested shelters or Boston. They found in some cases. Thirty Forty fifty percent of folks Infected oftentimes with no symptoms. So we see people that say we WANNA test everybody one as much testing as possible but then you see another kind of community and spent hours on the phone with communities right now that are basically saying. Hey I'd rather not know because once I know I have to do something about it and I'm not sure what I would do and so really. Thank you for this opportunity. But I don't want this information because this is going to give me a problem that right now I can at least pretend I don't have and they won't say it in those terms but it wasn't between the lines that's what you here and You know for me. It is just crazy. I think everything we know from public health officials. People like yourself who have battled these kinds of outbreaks on the ground in the past. Is that the more intelligence you can have better. And more reliable even save lives and the fact that in the middle of this pandemic there are still people at all levels of government saying we don't need to be doing more testing we don't need to know if our vulnerable populations are in the grips of this. Disney's or not as is unconscionable to me at a problem that frankly I think we've only begun to see the ramifications in the space without testing. Were flying in the dark. In the absence of a cure or vaccine are most important weapon against the virus is to test those at risk and blocks spread to others. But that's hard to do when you don't know who someone is when you don't know where they are when you want to stay in the dark anonymity is the most lethal thing about almost the fact that we lose track of people we forget. They're out there. We don't know who they are. If you've got your arms around somebody in this kind of situation don't let them go Until you can be sure that there had permanent housing and I I think that is the rallying cry right now. Epidemic is brought to you by just human productions were funded in part by the Conrad N Hilton Foundation and listeners. Like you were powered and distributed by simple cast. Today's episode was produced by Jordan Gospel. And me are. Music is by the Blue Dots. Sessions our interns are Sonia. Broadway Annabel Chen Isabel Ricky. Unclear halverson if you enjoy the show. Please tell a friend about it today and if you haven't already done so leave us a review on Apple. Podcasts helps more people find out about the show. You can learn more about this. Podcast how to engage with us on social media and how to support the podcast at epidemic dot f. m. that's epidemic dot f. m. just human productions is a five. Oh One C. Three nonprofit organization so your donations to support our podcasts are tax deductible go to epidemic DOT FM to make a donation. We release epidemic twice a week on Tuesdays and Fridays but producing. Podcast costs money with got to pay our staff. So please make a donation. Help US keep this going and check out our sister. Podcast American diagnosis. You can find it wherever you listen to podcasts or at American diagnosis dot. Fm on American diagnosis. We cover some of the biggest public health challenges affecting the nation today in season one we covered youth and mental health in season to the OPIOID overdose crisis and in season. Three gun violence in America. I'm Dr Celine Garrett Ron Claim. Thanks for listening to epidemic.