Fresno County working to house hundreds of homeless as COVID-19 cases continue to rise

FRESNO, Calif. (KFSN) -- Housing the homeless population has become a priority as the coronavirus sweeps through the nation and Central California.

"A lot of them are very vulnerable, susceptible to COVID-19. I believe last week there was a report of one homeless individual who did contract COVID-19," said Fresno County Supervisor Nathan Magsig. "So we want to make sure that these additional bed spaces that we're securing, whether they be hotel bed spaces or other, that some of those can be isolated."

Initially, triage workers placed 300 homeless people into housing, focusing on those who were 60 or older or those with prior health conditions.

Pregnant women were also at the top of the list. But now that many of those people are situated, otherwise healthy homeless people are getting places to stay.

"So right now there's a lot of people who are willing, they are ready to come in, so tracking them down has not been an issue," said Fresno County Administrative Analyst Sonia De La Cruz. "But what we've been finding is we've had to modify certainly make availability for their pets and possessions that they want to bring with them."

The CEO of the Fresno Rescue Mission says it took a while, but the local homeless population is finally getting the message about the urgent need to socially distance themselves from other people.

"They are not online all the time, so for them understanding what COVID is, understanding some of these basic things that they don't, sanitary things that they may not necessarily follow on any other day," said Matt Dildine, CEO of the Fresno Rescue Mission.

Officials say the shelters will allow them to be stationary and also have access to showers and handwashing stations that health officials say is critical to stopping the spread of the coronavirus.

Government leaders and homeless care providers are hoping to have hundreds of homeless placed in motels throughout the city by later this week, for at least the next 2 to 3 weeks.
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