Coronavirus hasn't devastated the homelessEmergency Shelter

Coronavirus hasn’t devastated the homeless as many feared

AN FRANCISCO — When the coronavirus emerged in the U.S. this year, public health officials and advocates for the homeless feared the virus would rip through shelters and tent encampments, ravaging vulnerable people who often have chronic health issues.

They scrambled to move people into hotel rooms, thinned out crowded shelters and moved tents into designated spots at sanctioned outdoor camps.

While shelters saw some large COVID-19 outbreaks, the virus so far doesn’t appear to have brought devastation to the homeless population as many feared. However, researchers and advocates say much is unknown about how the pandemic is affecting the estimated half-million people without housing in the U.S.


In a country that’s surpassed 5 million identified cases and 169,000 deaths, researchers don’t know why there appear to be so few outbreaks among the homeless.

“I am shocked, I guess I can say, because it’s a very vulnerable population. I don’t know what we’re going to see in an aftermath,” said Dr. Deborah Borne, who oversees health policy for COVID-19 homeless response at San Francisco’s public health department. “That’s why it’s called a novel virus, because we don’t know.”

More than 200 of an estimated 8,000 homeless people in San Francisco have tested positive for the virus, and half came from an outbreak at a homeless shelter in April. One homeless person is among the city’s 69 deaths.

In other places with large homeless populations, the numbers are similarly low. In King County, which includes Seattle, more than 400 of an estimated 12,000 homeless residents have been diagnosed. In Los Angeles County, more than 1,200 of an estimated 66,000 homeless people have been diagnosed.

It’s slightly higher in Maricopa County, which includes Phoenix, where nearly 500 of an estimated 7,400 homeless people have tested positive, including nine who died.

Health experts say the numbers don’t indicate how widespread the disease is or how it might play out long term. It’s unknown how many people have died of conditions indirectly related to the virus. While the coronavirus may dissipate more easily outdoors than indoors, living outside has its own risks.

With public libraries and other places closed, homeless people say they’re short on food and water, restrooms and cash. In San Francisco, 50 homeless people died over an eight-week period in April and May — twice the usual rate, said Dr. Barry Zevin, medical director of the public health department’s street medicine program.

The official causes are pending, but Zevin notes that fentanyl overdoses are rising and stay-at-home orders may prevent people from getting help quickly. He knew isolation could result in more overdoses.

“I think that’s happened, and whether it’s more or less than I would have expected, I don’t know,” he said. “It’s frustrating to be able to forecast something as a problem, do everything you can to prevent it as a problem, but it’s absolutely a case of competing priorities.”

Good data is difficult to get on the homeless population because hospitals and death certificates don’t track housing status, says Dr. Margot Kushel, director of the Center for Vulnerable Populations at the University of California, San Francisco.

She was hesitant to draw conclusions about how the pandemic has affected homeless people overall but said “this may be an example where being outside and unsheltered, just in terms of COVID, maybe let people be at lower risk. But again, part of that is that we just don’t really know.”

New York City has reported more than 1,400 infections and 104 deaths among homeless residents out of more than 226,000 positive cases and 19,000 deaths. Roughly 60,000 people live in shelters, unlike in West Coast cities where many more are unsheltered.

  •  Updated 



Another homeless veteran has been laid to rest. Nearly 40,000 remain across America.

Welcome to WordPress. This is your first post. Edit or delete it, then start writing!

GRIFFIN, Ga. — For the second time in three weeks, a homeless veteran was buried at a metro Atlanta cemetery.

For the second time in three weeks, dozens turned out in support after the body went unclaimed.

SP4 Thomas Cummings served in the U.S. Army in Vietnam. He was discharged 49 years ago this month. He was born in Macon but grew up in Griffin and returned there in his later years.

Cummings’ story is tragic but not as rare as it may seem. Two weeks ago, Lt. Richard Butterfield was laid to rest at the Georgia National Cemetery in Canton. He died two months shy of his 80th birthday. He too went unclaimed.

According to the latest statistics from the 2018 Annual Homeless Assessment Report to Congress, an estimated 37,878 veterans are experiencing homelessness across America. This number is half of where it stood a decade ago, and Georgia is among the states with the largest decreases. But the state still shows more than 700 estimated homeless veterans.

Cummings was one.

“We don’t know a lot about Specialist Cummings,” said the minister who led Cummings’ funeral service at Oak Hill Cemetery in Grifin. “We appreciate him and his service to his country. All of our lives count. His life counted.”

Emergency Shelter

Good Samaritan helps homeless, pregnant woman in need at Goodwill store

GRIFFIN, Ga. — A Good Samaritan stepped in to help a pregnant, homeless woman in need at a local Goodwill store.

Nafetteria Hines walked into a restroom of the Goodwill store in Griffin on Tuesday and a found a homeless, pregnant woman naked from the waist down. She had been shopping at the store when she accidentally soiled herself and onto the store’s floor. The homeless woman asked a store employee if she could have some new clothes.