County, city invest millions to house homeless during coronavirus outbreak

FRESNO, Calif. (KFSN) -- Fresno County and the city of Fresno are putting roofs over a lot of homeless people's heads in response to the coronavirus outbreak.

As a small group of homeless people huddled a little too close for a protest at City Hall Tuesday, the county supervisors approved a measure to give them more space.

The county and city are buying up rooms at vacant facilities to clear out homeless encampments and reduce the population in shelters.

"They are running at the safest capacity that we can run to ensure that we are compliant with the regulations for the safe space and isolation if needed," said Delfino Neira, the county's social services director.

They've already moved about 150 people off the streets and into the temporary shelters, which can safely house about 300.

"Those beds provide for isolation and quarantine if it were necessary but we're also trying to bring in folks in the unit where they were found in the community," said Sonia Delarosa from the county administrator's office.

An Action News reporter put on a mandated mask and toured one of the new shelters with its managers and city council member Miguel Arias.

People arrive at the old C.A.P. recovery home, get checked for medical conditions, and get checked in.

CDC coronavirus guidelines say cities and counties need to plan for higher shelter usage during the outbreak and finding people permanent housing should be a priority, especially when we have "stay at home" orders in place.

"Those who don't have a home, don't have anywhere to stay and if they're out in the streets interacting with the general public and with themselves, it only makes them far more vulnerable and highly likely to get the coronavirus and spread it," said Arias.

The added housing could last 180 days and cost about $2.1 million in funding from the state, but it might not be the last space the county needs.

"We're at the moment expanding and we'll probably bring back agreements to rent hotels," Neira told the supervisors.

The next step would involve the county using state and federal emergency funding to rent out entire hotels in Fresno, and a few rooms in rural Fresno County.

For more news coverage on the coronavirus and COVID-19 go to abc30.com/coronavirus/.
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