Central Valley homeless population feeling impact of COVID-19

FRESNO, Calif. (KFSN) -- As the coronavirus continues its spread throughout the state of California, the Valley's homeless population is one of the most vulnerable groups.

Last year's Point In Time Homeless Count was just under 1,500 sheltered and unsheltered in the city of Fresno. Local nonprofits in the city are welcoming the homeless during the crisis.

"We're seeing higher volumes than we normally see because of this crisis," said Zack Darrah, chief executive officer of the Poverello House. "And we anticipate there will be more need as this crisis continues."

The Poverello House is at capacity as a result of the influx.

"Our homeless population, a lot of them have pre-existing health conditions and because they lack shelter and a home, they are more likely to spread it amongst other folks in the general population," said Fresno City Council President Miguel Arias.

Once homeless herself, Desiree Martinez says the CDC's social distancing guidelines are just not possible when it comes to those living in encampments across the city.

"Right now on Santa Clara, tents are tent to tent, literally," Martinez said.

The city has installed mobile wash stations at homeless shelters and portable restrooms in broader areas across the city and is looking at motels and hotels as a possible short-term solution.
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