Coronavirus pandemic creating more challenges for those who are homeless

Posted at 12:22 PM, Apr 01, 2020

WASHINGTON, D.C. – If the coronavirus is proving to be a challenge to most Americans, it’s even more so for those without a home.

“If somebody on the street gets it, they can't self-quarantine. They don't have access to the same kinds of resources that the rest of us do,” said Joe Mettimano, president of the Central Union Mission. “We are completely at capacity.”

The Mission is a homeless shelter that houses 170 men every day in Washington, D.C.

One of those men is Jonathan Moncada.

“Over the last couple of weeks, things have been progressively shutting down, just like the city,” he said.

Jonathan has been homeless for two years and found his way to the Central Union Mission seven months ago. He said, inside, there’s a continuous state of cleaning.

“We have been cleaning much more, like every hour,” Moncada said.

The Mission will now be limiting when people can come in and out. Before someone comes in, they get screened, in case they show symptoms of the virus. It’s a population especially vulnerable to it.

“That's why our priority is to not only continue to serve the homeless but to keep that virus out of our facilities,” Mettimano said, “because once it gets into a shelter that is communal, with a dorm style, dormitory style environment, it can blow up very quickly.”

For those who can’t get into a shelter, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is issuing guidelines for local communities, such as:

– Not clear homeless encampments – because it can cause people to disperse and potentially spread the virus

– Encourage people in encampments to keep all tents or sleeping areas at least 12 feet from one another

– And, if possible, communities should provide portable latrines for encampments of more than 10 people – and include hygiene materials inside, like hand sanitizer

For those at the Central Union Mission, they know it’s a long road ahead.

“We have, throughout the last couple of weeks, come closer as a community, as far as the building is concerned and the homeless community,” Moncada said.

It’s a community now facing yet another hurdle, in the form of a potentially deadly virus.

For more information on the efforts of the Central Union Mission or if you can help, click here.