I want to put this out there sooner than later. There is a possibility I have already been exposed to coronavirus. So, in the event I get sick I want to make sure my ideas are out there. Obviously, these are just my personal opinions and if I'm out of the game then others will maneuver based on the information on the ground at the time.
I have already written: Sage's Recommendations For Working With Homeless People In A Coronavirus World. But in this case I want to talk about specific quarantine ideas.
As of today no one in Akron Ohio has given any recommendations as to how we are supposed to manage our homeless population in the event they become infected with coronavirus.
In this HUD document: Preventing and Managing the Spread of Infectious Disease within Encampments (PDF) they are telling us that ALL homeless encampments should be receiving access to clean water, hand washing stations, and public restroom. They are also supposed to be supplied with trash service.
As of yesterday, city officials are still closing encampments in Akron. They are showing no awareness of the threat to our entire community by not having a health plan in place for their homeless citizens.
I brought bottled water to a camp yesterday. I will continue doing so as long as I'm medically able.
There has been a request for baby wipes at this camp. (This is the camp on Adams Street.) I don't currently have any wipes. I would prefer if we could get them some hand sanitizing wipes or gels. I'm not sure how likely that is. But it would be about as good as we can do as volunteers as far as hand cleaning is concerned.
Here are my thoughts as of today, Saturday March 14, 2020 on how we should manage quarantine with our homeless neighbors.
If I am not able to go to camps and the food bank and our transitional houses because I become sick I would like to offer my truck to either Ashleigh or Lerryn while I'm out. They could continue bringing food to our transitional houses from the food bank. I believe we need to be going to the food bank as often as possible to keep food flowing into our neighborhood.
I know that at least one church in our neighborhood has stopped all meals. I've heard of others throughout the city.
As of today people have donated $2980 to a fund for food. I'm so overwhelmed by people's goodness I can barely express my gratitude. It is so humbling. So we need to keep a system in place to keep food moving no matter who is in or out of the work at any given time.
This house has an incredible amount of activity.
Ashleigh and I have expressed our desire to allow no one in either of our houses other than the people that live there during this time.
But I simply don't believe that is overly realistic, particularly in this house.
I believe because of the regular access to this house there will be a high likelihood that coronavirus will present at this location.
PLEASE. If you have a fever or a cough and you do not live at our houses PLEASE do not come into either of our houses.
If you want to bring supplies and donations to this house, for your safety and the safety of the people in the house, I ask that you please just leave donations on the front porch. Just knock on the door and let them know they have arrived. Try to not come into the house whenever possible.
I have purchased a thermometer specifically for homeless people. I will be testing people's temperatures in each of our houses. I'll also be testing in camps if they allow me.
If you are a volunteer PLEASE take your temperature at least daily. You may not feel hot. But you could be. I feel like a temperature is a good sign of coronavirus.
If the Arlington House becomes infected I believe it should become a quarantine zone.
The house should be closed and no one should be allowed in or out. We should do everything in our power to get people everything they need (I mean everything) so they don't need to leave the house. And they don't need people to come into the house.
This house is fairly secluded. Not many outside people come to this house. I would (and have) encouraged them to just not let anyone in their house that doesn't live there. They are quite agreeable to that. If we can keep them well fed and supplied in that house it's quite possible they will stay in the house without a great deal of desire to leave the house.
My recommendation is to make sure we understand the needs of the people in that house and supply them with those needs.
Volunteers come by that house. But I think most of the work is done outside. That is great! Hopefully there won't be too much difficulty or change in habits to keep people out of the house that don't live there.
In what I believe to be the likely event that a homeless person comes down with Coronavirus, I suggest we create a quarantine encampment. I don't want to suggest any locations here because it will surely be closed by the city if they find it.
I watched a webinar from HUD and the CDC about homelessness and coronavirus. The elephant in the room was: "How are we going to quarantine people that don't have a home?"
We must vigilantly bring EVERYTHING to these people. If we can supply all of their needs then they will have little desire to leave. Ideally, it would be great if we could do this in a totally enclosed area. Having a fence all the way around would be ideal.
We need to keep well people out of this area. And we need to entice sick people to stay in. This needs to be a very low barrier area. We should anticipate difficult situations with mental illness and stealing and arguing. We may have to create more than one quarantine area for people that are particularly difficult to work with.
I have tents for this project. I probably can get blankets from donors quite quickly.
I believe that if a person becomes infected in one of our houses or we establish a quarantine encampment we are going to need volunteers that are willing to work with these people. We need gloves and masks. Some kind of full body suit would be ideal as well.
These people are going to need over the counter medication and likely help staying on their already prescribed medication. Please do some serious thinking if you are willing to help in that regard. I don't know if medical professionals would be able or willing to help us with this work.
In the unlikely event that someone else creates a more official location for quarantined homeless people, we should certainly encourage our friends to use those locations. But part of this process is going to be creating a quarantined location where they will freely stay at. I can think of some locations where a person would refuse to go no matter how sick they were.
We also need to be in contact with medical professionals about the status of sick people. We need to know when we need to move people to hospitals, if we are able to do so.
I do not recommend transporting sick people in your own vehicle. It could easily get contaminated. Try to get an ambulance to take people. If an ambulance won't come I'd suggest transporting people in the back of a pickup truck.
I feel like I'm preparing for the apocalypse. But for our homeless friends, society has become an apocalypse. No one thinks of them. No one makes realistic provisions for them. And most of all, no one in power understands them.
If something better comes along for homeless people, by all means, abandon this plan and go with that. But, I am not at all optimistic there will be anything better than this plan.