Massachusetts homeless families living in fear as coronavirus rages on

Homeless families living in shelters in Massachusetts during the pandemic say they feel like “sitting ducks” a

توسط ATSHNEWS در 29 فروردین 1399

Homeless families living in shelters in Massachusetts during the pandemic say they feel like “sitting ducks” and are sounding the alarm for more resources.

Congregate living facilities — like hard-hit nursing homes — are the “perfect breeding grounds” for viruses, said homeless advocate Kelley Turley of the Massachusetts Coalition for the Homeless.

She pointed to adult homeless shelters in Boston, where infection rates rose from zero to more than 30% in less than two weeks, and to nursing homes and long-term care centers where 4,798 COVID-19 cases and 610 deaths had been reported as of Thursday, according to state health data.

It’s a reality yet to take hold inside the shelters that house Massachusetts’ homeless families, but one that families live in fear of nonetheless.

“We share everything — forks, knives, spoons, bathrooms, the living room — with the other families living there. There is no safe way to quarantine anyone,” said Elisa Bennett, who left the Pittsfield shelter where she, her husband and 2-year-old daughter were living for the past six months as the virus took root in Massachusetts.

The mother said she has been spending “every penny” of the unemployment wages her husband makes on hotels and Airbnbs to avoid going back to a “terrifying” situation.

“We are sitting ducks,” said Bennett, who also suffers from asthma, putting her at higher risk of complications should she become infected. “I’m afraid for my family and their safety and the safety of everybody in that house and nobody seems to care.”

There were 14 confirmed cases of COVID-19 within the state’s emergency shelter program for families as of Wednesday — a negligible rate considering the system houses 3,324 families or about 10,800 individuals.

Still, Turley says there is cause for concern. The detected cases in family shelters are “just the tip of the iceberg” Turley and 17 other advocates wrote in a letter to Gov. Charlie Baker last week, urging more testing and calling on the administration to break up large shelters to allow families to practice social distancing.

“We are hearing from families that people exhibiting symptoms aren’t being tested,” Turley said.

Health and Human Services Secretary Marylou Sudders said during a Thursday briefing the state has been working to give “guidance to family shelters around infection control and how to mitigate spread, testing and the like.”

Unlike for homeless individuals, the state is not offering hotels as a means for social distancing at this time.

“Depopulating our individual shelters has really worked and I think — absolutely — the idea of if we can temporarily get access to more hotels and spread out the congregates a little more is a prudent step,” said John Yazwinski, director of Father Bills & Mainspring, which runs both family and individual shelters.
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