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KPBS Midday Edition Segments

San Diego Homeless Shelters In ‘Desperate’ Mode Amid Coronavirus Pandemic

Speaker 1: 00:00 Never has. Having a home, a place to shelter and be safe, been more important than during this covert 19 outbreak that makes San Diego's ongoing struggle to shelter thousands of homeless people, even more urgent. And the city of San Diego's bridge shelters for the homeless are currently dealing with supply shortages. Father Joe's villages this morning announced that they are no longer accepting homeless people into their shelters. Journey may is founder and CEO of [inaudible], the alpha project, Bob McElroy and Bob, welcome to the program. Thanks for having me. Memory. So father Joe's is not accepting homeless people into their shelters anymore. Is alpha project still accepting new residents? Speaker 2: 00:40 We are as beds come available, but we're um, having them assessed first are doing the assessment. Assessment doesn't guarantee that they're don't have the virus, but um, we are on a case by case basis. Speaker 1: 00:53 So how are you dealing with the Corona virus pandemics so far? What are the procedures that you have in place now? Speaker 2: 01:02 Um, we've been, you know, hyper aware obviously of of everybody in the, in the facility, somebody costs, we've got a lot of eyeballs on them immediately. But we've been, you know, washing, instead of cleaning the showers, you know, once or twice a day we're, or at five times a day, we're washing down all the handles on the, um, out houses, uh, the bathroom facilities, you know, every 10 or 15 minutes after somebody in the [inaudible] uses them. I mean, we've just been really, we've gone through a lot of supplies and we gave out a lot of our supplies, taken a lot of our hand washing and hygiene kits out with our outreach teams down into the canyons and you know, river beds and, you know, freeway off ramps and on ramps. So we've gone through a lot of stuff and we're all hearing that we may not get resupplied until April, um, from our vendors like waxy. So we're kind of in desperate mode right now. Speaker 1: 01:55 What are your options? Speaker 2: 01:57 Well, we've got a lot of recipes here to make our own cleaning products and so we're, we're kind of exploring those things. Um, obviously, you know, you've seen what's, what's happened and you know, the Costcos and the, you know, the food stores and things. Everything's really just, uh, you know, panic and took all those supplies there. Um, so I don't know how many offices we have is just to be hyper aware, vigilant. For the most part, our folks are baring with, uh, the unknowns here. This was not the kind of unknown I ever expected to have. And, um, you know, just trying to be trying to do the best we can Speaker 1: 02:32 during the news conference this morning. Father Joe's villages announced that a homeless individual staying at one of its shelters has tested, has been tested for Corona virus and is staying in one of the motel rooms the County has secured and waiting for results. Have there been any suspected coronavirus cases connected with alpha project in the shelters or the affordable housing units? Speaker 2: 02:54 Well, we just had a, um, a resident last night of bridge to shelter on Imperial, um, displaying, um, some possible symptoms that the nurses, the County nurses that were on site that are onsite, she gets that she'd go to the emergency room and be tested, uh, and she's still, uh, up at the hospital and we'll, you know, we're anxiously awaiting results on that, that test. So, uh, yeah, it's very stressful time. Speaker 1: 03:26 The County announced that it is, it has installed new hand washing stations. It's also sending outreach teams to encampments with hygiene kits. As you say that alpha project is doing, what more would you like to see the County do to help prevent the spread of this virus among the homeless? Speaker 2: 03:45 Well, I dunno how much more we can do. I mean, certainly, you know, we, we like having, uh, you know, clinicians, we learned a lot, you know, when they have a, uh, outbreak, you know, took place and we had clinicians go right and do a ride along for their outreach team and washing stations are great. Um, but they're just, there's so many unknowns here. I wish that testing would be, I was hearing somewhere and just the, just the mountains of information that come out every day. And some, a lot of times that information changes that they actually had four hour testing kits instead of 48 hour test. It gets, you know, I, I'm led to see that expedited. I don't know if there's any of that available here in San Diego yet, but I'm in the facilities that we have, it's impossible for us to do the social distancing because we're only 24, 24 inches away from each other at the bridge, one facility and three feet away from each other in the bridge to facility. But we certainly aren't doing the hand washing and the wearing the gloves. Some people have math. Um, we're out of those also now. So as I said, we're, we're, we're doing the best we can and just saying our prayers that, uh, that we just don't have, uh, have an issue, a positive. Speaker 1: 04:57 Um, how concerned are you, uh, in the situation and what you're seeing right now that that coronavirus might get a foothold into San Diego's homeless population? Speaker 2: 05:08 Very, I mean, I, if it, if it hits us, it's not going to be good. You know, we have a lot of people trapped in mental illness, you know, who never signed up for that, who are just, those are the folks that literally fall through the cracks. What do we do with that? And then we've got, you know, 465 plus people under, you know, to, uh, uh, bread, shelter facilities in close proximity to each other. I don't know. I don't like having the, you know, not having an answer, but I just don't know what we would do. So we're just, all we can do is pray Speaker 1: 05:40 how much of a factor has the city and the County been in reaching out to alpha project and, and trying to come up with strategies to deal with this viral spread among the population in your tents and shelters? Speaker 2: 05:54 We're miles ahead of where we were done. They had a, I mean, it took and some, some cases longer, you know, to get the forces Marshall to get out here and start addressing the issue. We're way ahead of that. Nathan's been great. Uh, the County, Nathan Fletcher, and Kevin's been great. They were actually down on down Saturday at the bridge one facility. And if I, if I need something and I'm concerned, I call them both on the cell phone and I'll go through the bureaucracy and Speaker 1: 06:19 can they help you get supplies? Speaker 2: 06:21 They're trying to, they're trying to, as I said, this is a national emergency and they're, they're just not there, you know, certainly if they were there somewhere in a warehouse, we'd be able to get them, but they're just not there. Speaker 1: 06:34 I really appreciate your taking the time out to talk to us about this today. I can hear how much is going on and a thank you. Thank you for sharing all that information. I've been speaking with founder and CEO of the alpha project, Bob McElroy. Thanks again. Speaker 2: 06:50 Thanks man. Appreciate it.

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Bob McElroy, president and CEO of Alpha Project, says the nonprofit will only admit new homeless individuals into its two tent bridge shelters on a "case by case" basis. He also said they've run out of hand sanitizer and cleaning supplies.
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