I have a friend who has been doing some incredible boots-on-the-ground work serving the homeless community in her city during the COVID-19 outbreak. I was shocked to find that she’d received some push-back – both subtle and also very confrontational. I won’t say where exactly this happened, but in one neighborhood, police actually found her creating a hand-washing station for a tent city and they stopped her. They said it wasn’t allowed. Whaaaat? Meanwhile, she’s had some family members who’ve suggested, “What’s the point? They’re going to get sick from something, either way, with the way that they live.” Okay that wasn’t so subtle and that family member is an **hole. (I may have just lost my yearly invitation to their Thanksgiving dinner now but, whatever).
There is this sad, frightening, and disgusting sensibility out there that only free and working civilians with homes deserve protection from COVID-19. So, not prisoners. And not the homeless community. I’ve already dove long and hard into why we must take action to protect prisoners against COVID-19. And I think many are starting to come around to that idea. But I fear a lot of people still don’t really think it’s “worth it” to dedicate tons of resources and time to minimize the spread of the coronavirus within homeless populations.
Beyond the fact that I shouldn’t even have to say which is that they are human and deserve to live, there’s also the fact that our homeless communities are linked to the rest of our communities. We can’t ignore them or try to act like they don’t impact us, and we don’t impact them. And it’s a fact that two of the top five cities with the worst homelessness issues in the world are in America. Here is why COVID-19 amongst the homeless is a national issue.
They can’t wash their hands
Washing our hands. It’s something so many of us get to do, whenever we want, so we don’t realize it’s a luxury. But it was already difficult enough for the homeless population to access soap and water before COVID-19. Businesses wouldn’t allow them to use their bathrooms. And now, the public spaces they relied on for soap and water like bathrooms at parks and the beach, are closed.