California's stay-at-home order leaves homeless on street and vulnerable
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[March 21, 2020]
By Stephen Nellis and Paresh Dave
BERKELEY, Calif. (Reuters) - Governor Gavin
Newsom has ordered California's 40 million residents to stay at home.
That's a big problem for the state's estimated 108,000 homeless who live
on the streets.
Officials are bracing for the coronavirus to have an outsized impact on
the homeless who often live without access to proper sanitation and
sometimes suffer underlying illnesses.
More than 60,000 homeless people could become ill with the coronavirus
in California over the next two months, badly straining the healthcare
system, Newsom said on Wednesday.
"Over the next eight-week period, we have modeled that of the 108,000
unsheltered Californians that are out on the streets, if you had an
attack rate of about 56%, you're looking at 60-plus thousand individuals
that may have COVID-19," Newsom, a Democrat, said in a Facebook address
to the state.
He has ordered $50 million be used to convert motels and hotels into
shelters where homeless people could be isolated if they caught the
Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti said as many as 6,000 homeless people
with coronavirus would be given beds at recreation centers. San
Francisco Mayor London Breed said city recreational vehicles are being
brought to the Presidio, a posh public park on a former military base,
to house homeless needing to quarantine.
Resting on a mattress near the University of California at Berkeley,
James Sears, 27, said the clampdown that the San Francisco Bay Area had
implemented ahead of the statewide stay-at-home order had already
squeezed the homeless.
Sears said he has made only $50 panhandling in the past week, far less
than normal, and many of the restaurants that would lend him bowls and
hot water to make meals have closed.
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Ross Standley, 23, and James Sears, 27, sit outside an under
construction restaurant in Berkeley, California March 20, 2020. The
homeless individuals have seen their income from panhandling
significant decrease in the last week as the coronavirus disease
(COVID-19) outbreak has emptied streets in the university town.
"Things are getting ridiculous," Sears said. "I haven't been able to
make real money in days."
On the bright side, with loud Berkeley college students gone from
town, "it's been easier to fall asleep," he said.
At a train station south of San Francisco on Friday, Terry Atkins,
64, said the last time he had slept indoors was eight days before at
a Motel 6 in Sacramento, California, where he paid $69 for a room.
Speaking with a cough as construction workers filed by to a nearby
400-unit housing development, he said he had heard of the
coronavirus but did not know about the stay-at-home orders.
"I believe in helping people and keeping things clean," Atkins said,
motioning toward litter around the train station and saying it
needed to be cleaned up. "The virus is caused by a dirty germ."
(Reporting by Stephen Nellis in Millbrae, California and Paresh Dave
in Berkeley, Califoria; Editing by Bill Tarrant and Daniel Wallis)
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