County’s homeless individuals being cared for during pandemic
SNOHOMISH COUNTY — A host of agencies are coordinating efforts to keep the novel coronavirus in check among the county’s homeless population.
As of last week, there have been no confirmed deaths among the homeless population in the county attributed to COVID-19, the disease caused by the new coronavirus. Only 18 homeless individuals have needed isolation or quarantining.
“Collectively, everyone’s been working very hard to ensure safety under the circumstances,” said Mary Jane Brell Vujovic, Snohomish County’s Human Services director. “I don’t think we’re seeing the same levels of infection that are being reported in some jurisdictions.”
A pilot program called SAFE (SnoCo Agencies for Engagement) sent teams of doctors, paramedics, social workers and police officers into homeless encampments beginning last month to assess for COVID-19 and connect people to services.
Through public and private funding, an average of 300 homeless persons a night are being sheltered at designated county hotels or motels and the Carnegie Resource Center in Everett.
Isolated and quarantined people are being housed at Angel of the Winds Arena in Everett.
Once individuals leave quarantine, they are transported to the town they previously lived in and are connected with a social worker.
“They are free to resume their lives as they were prior to entering the quarantine facility,” said Alessandra Durham, a county policy analyst.
Snohomish County has provided nearly $400,000 to help the Salvation Army house up to 40 homeless people nightly at the Carnegie and 44 more per evening in an Everett motel.
An additional $350,000 has gone toward hotel/motel vouchers for homeless and others at high vulnerability for COVID-19, a well as individuals and families on the county’s coordinated entry list to receive social services.
The vouchers ease pressure on homeless shelters and help them maintain social distancing requirements to keep beds at least six feet apart.
The Everett Gospel Mission says it is housing 175 men and women at its shelters and has limited how many new clients are allowed into the mission. Mission representatives did not return requests for an interview.
So far the SAFE campaign seems to be succeeding.
“This is a huge partnership effort,” said Brell Vujovic. “This is what Snohomish County does best. In times of crisis, we come together to address it.”
King County has reported more than 100 cases of COVID-19 in its homeless shelters. The disease has killed two homeless people, and another homeless man who tested positive for COVID-19 was found dead in a county isolation and quarantine motel in Kent, King County’s public health agency said late last month.
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