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How King County is looking to keep homeless safe from coronavirus

Homeless campers in Seattle. (David Lee, Flickr Creative Commons)

With coronavirus continuing to spread among Western Washington’s most vulnerable population, questions have arisen regarding the best way to keep the region’s homeless safe.

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“We do know that our residents who experience homelessness are often particularly vulnerable,” King County Department of Community and Human Services Director Leo Flor told KIRO Radio. “Being homeless is hard on a person’s health in the first place.”

To that end, the county is entering the final stages of purchasing a motel to house coronavirus patients who don’t have the means to self-quarantine. Additionally, 14 modular units have arrived from Texas able to hold up to 112 people, as well as from Marysville, able to hold 72 more.

“One of the things that we know right now is our medical system and the emergency medical system are going to come under significant strain,” Flor noted. “And one of the most important things that we can do is to ensure that folks who don’t need immediate medical care are not going to emergency rooms and have other safe places to be.”

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Flor also points out that coronavirus can affect people “from all walks of life, regardless of whether or not they are housed.” That being so, the county still saw a need to “take specific actions for people who don’t have a home to go back to.”

King County is also looking to work with local shelters and aid providers, and spoke with 175 representatives Monday to coordinate efforts. The hope is to disseminate information about best practices for sanitization, as well as “observing social distance,” and “mak[ing] sure that we are providing enough within shelters so that folks can minimize the spread [of coronavirus].”

“Some of that seems basic, and it’s what we know is most effective to blunt the spread of the virus in populations, particularly those who congregate,” Flor outlined.

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