With so much disheartening coronavirus news circulating the internet, it’s refreshing to see stories of positivity amid the coronavirus pandemic.
Positivity is exactly what Circle the City, a Phoenix-based nonprofit group, achieved when they began housing and treating homeless residents with COVID-19 symptoms. The organization’s efforts began in May, when they transformed the empty Phoenix Inn hotel in downtown Phoenix into a housing unit for the homeless.
Vulnerable Arizonians Get the Care They Need
Homeless Phoenix residents like Thomas Salts are especially vulnerable to the coronavirus pandemic. Without their own home and resources, the homeless often lack access to basic sanitation, health care, and ability to maintain self-isolation.
In May, Circle the City became one of many nonprofit groups around the country to use vacant hotel rooms to provide care to the homeless people of Phoenix.
“I can tell you the hotel was just a hotel, but the people in it made it special,” Salts said. “These people would come morning, noon, night and check on me. Take my temperature. Check my vitals. The doctor would be there with his stethoscope, checking my lungs, making sure I don’t have to go to the hospital for a ventilator.”
Circle the City partnered with another nonprofit Community Bridges Inc. to provide three meals a day, drinks, and extra snacks, along with daily medical care and attention.
“This is amazing, that’s what I mean, they’re really amazing people,” Salts explained. “And they did above and beyond what any kind of role, like just a worker doing a job would be doing. These people are genuine.”
Other Cities Take the Same Approach
In New Orleans, city officials started by setting up hand-washing stations and toilets in the area’s two major homeless encampments. However, since those measures weren’t enough to ensure isolation and quarantine, the nonprofit UNITY of Greater New Orleans started offering hotel rooms at the Hilton Garden Inn.
On the west coast in San Francisco, meanwhile, lawmakers ordered the mayor to lease hotel rooms for the homeless. The push began in April, when local lawmakers gave the mayor 12 days to secure 7,000 hotel rooms to house the city’s homeless population during the coronavirus emergency. Over the next few months, more than 2,000 homeless San Francisco residents sought refuge in the hotel rooms. Now nonprofit teams are partnering with the city to move many homeless people from those hotels into apartments as a long-term solution.
The same can be seen in New York City, where the homeless population was especially vulnerable in the country’s COVID-19 epicenter. According to Steven Banks, commissioner for the Department of Social Services, “We prioritize, first, people over 70. Then we looked at our largest shelters and wanted to immediately cut the population dramatically and begin to do those moves. And now we’ve been moving entire shelters into commercial hotel rooms.”
These combined efforts by large cities and their nonprofit organizations have given some of the highest-risk citizens the care and protections they need to survive the deadly pandemic.