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COVID-19 Homeless Response
COVID-19 Homeless Response Frequently Asked Questions
Updated May 7, 2020
What is being done to protect persons experiencing homelessness from COVID-19?
The Shelter & Care Task Force has established an emergency response team comprised of local government and service provider partners from across the county. The team created is implementing a 4-part homeless response strategy to the COVID-19 pandemic. The 4-part Homeless Response strategy is driven by guidelines set by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and the California Department of Public Health. The Homeless Response strategies include addressing existing shelters, adding additional shelter spaces and locations, establishing Isolation/Quarantine shelters in partnership with local hotels, and implementing COVID-19 outreach and engagement services for those living outside.
How many persons experiencing homelessness are confirmed to have contracted COVID-19?
As of May 7, 2020, no persons experiencing homelessness in Santa Cruz County have been diagnosed with COVID-19.
What happens when a person experiencing homelessness is diagnosed with COVID-19
If a person experiencing homelessness is diagnosed with COVID-19 and hospitalization is required, the person will be hospitalized. If hospitalization is not required, the person will be quarantined in a hotel room with supportive staffing and services available.
Are all persons experiencing homeless going to be moved into hotel rooms?
No. Guidelines from the CDC, as well as the Governor’s Project Roomkey, recommend hotel room shelter space (known locally as Isolation/Quarantine Shelters) only for persons experiencing homelessness who are vulnerable to COVID-19 and/or being isolated or quarantined from exposure. The County has secured a number of hotel rooms for these purposes. The Shelter & Care Task Force’s approach prioritizes individuals experiencing homelessness who are known or presumed to be COVID-19 positive but do not require hospitalization, as well as those with high-risk factors who face increased risk of mortality from COVID-19. Isolation/Quarantine Shelter participants are provided transportation, a private room, three meals a day, snacks, and laundry service. These shelters have security and other staff on-site 24 hours, seven days a week. Public Health Nurses are regularly on site to address health needs.
How many hotels are sheltering persons experiencing homelessness?
Currently, there are three local hotels under contract for the Isolation/Quarantine Shelter program. Between the three hotels, there are a total of 117 rooms.
Are participating hotels also making rooms available to the general public?
No. Hotels participating in the Isolation/Quarantine Shelter program are required to dedicate the hotel property entirely to the shelter program.
How many additional shelters have been added countywide, where are they and how many people are they serving?
Three new shelters have been implemented as part of the countywide COVID-19 Homeless Response strategy, including:
Watsonville Veterans Memorial Building and Santa Cruz County Veterans Memorial Building in downtown Santa Cruz, serving a combined total of approximately 100.
Simpkins Family Swim Center (Live Oak), can serve up to 29 Transitional Age Youth (ages 18-24).
Why are existing encampments allowed to continue?
CDC and state guidelines advise against dispersing encampments, unless individual housing units are available. The guidelines also recommend that if individuals are asymptomatic, outreach services should be provided to persons living in encampments and physical distancing should be maintained.
Are encampments safe, such as the ones at the Benchlands and near Coral Street in Santa Cruz?
The Shelter & Care Task Force has implemented demarcated campsites and increased safety measures at the Benchlands and the Coral Street area in Santa Cruz to facilitate physical distancing and the provision of outreach, hygiene facilities, food and other basic needs to support persons living unsheltered in these areas.
How is food and medical care being provided to persons experiencing homelessness?
Existing food and medical providers have restructured their service models to continue serving persons experiencing homelessness while aligning with shelter-in-place and physical distancing guidelines.
Is it ok for people to be living in RVs and other vehicles?
Yes. CDC guidelines recommend allowing people to shelter in place in their RVs and other vehicles, if they are able to do so safely. Task Force partners are working to identify additional safe parking areas for RVs.
During the COVID-19 crisis and the shelter-in-place order, are efforts to find permanent housing for persons experiencing homelessness continuing or have they been placed on hold?
Efforts to identify permanent housing are continuing the COVID-19 crisis. Many formerly homeless families and individuals are finding housing each month with the support of case managers and housing navigators.
How is countywide COVID-19 homeless response being funded?
Federal, state and local government funds are all being brought to bear on the crisis. Additionally, local community organizations have expanded services with community donations.
How can I learn more information and stay up to date?
for more information, including weekly updates and more.