SAN DIEGO (KGTV) — The San Diego Housing Commission said there are surges of COVID-19 cases happening in San Diego's homeless population similar to the general population.
In a statement sent to ABC 10News, Housing Commission officials said: “The City of San Diego, San Diego Housing Commission (SDHC) and shelter operators are collaborating to provide locations where individuals who test positive can be temporarily isolated from the rest of the shelter population. These include temporary tents set up for shelter residents who test positive to stay while waiting for County of San Diego isolation beds to become available.
"In the latest round of testing, Alpha Project and Father Joe’s Villages, the operators of the City’s Bridge Shelters and the Interim Shelter program at Father Joe’s Villages, reported 50 shelter residents (across the shelter programs) tested positive for COVID-19 and need to be isolated from the general shelter population. Shelter intakes are temporarily suspended at these shelters, which include Alpha’s 17th & Imperial and 16th & Newton sites and Father Joe’s Golden Hall and Paul Mirabile Center sites.”
"I was feeling ill all day. The whole day I was just like this massive headache, nausea and super dizzy,” a man named Gary, who is being isolated at a Father Joe’s location, told ABC 10News over the phone on Thursday.
According to the Housing Commission, the number of positive cases and their shelter locations are 18 total positive cases at Alpha Project Bridge Shelter (16th & Newton) which is for single adults; four total positive cases at Alpha Project (17th & Imperial) which is also for single adults; four positive cases on the first floor of Father Joe’s Golden Hall, which is for single adults; two total positive cases on the second floor of the Golden Hall, which is for transition-age youth and families with children. The Housing Authority told ABC 10News that those second-floor cases are isolated in a separate space on the second floor. Lastly, there are 22 total positive cases at Father Joe’s Paul Mirabile Center for single adults.
Gary told ABC 10News had tested positive for COVID and was in isolation with others when on Wednesday night, at around 10 p.m., they were moved from an indoor room to an outdoor tent.
"They take us out to this cold tent. They had this heater, this construction-style blower heater, you know. And I'm like, ‘At least they got a heater in here,'" Gary said. “Well, they had a few sides open, so the cold breeze went through so the heater did no good. And then after a couple of hours it shut off."
He said that they slept on small cots and had not received a medical checkup as of late Thursday morning.
ABC 10News contacted the city and Father Joe's regarding the COVID outbreak, the isolation process, and Gary's claims.
In the Housing Commission’s statement, the agency said, “Sick residents are being provided nutrition and a place to recover; if anyone becomes seriously ill (beyond standard flu symptoms), shelter operators will connect them to emergency care immediately.
“The City, County, SDHC and shelter operators are continuing to work diligently, expeditiously and collaboratively to provide shelter for San Diegans experiencing homelessness. Shelter operators’ staff continue to support residents in these temporary isolation spaces by providing sleeping accommodations, meals and any other basic necessities required and regularly provided through shelter operations.”
"They could've easily done 15 of us in a hotel for the night if they wanted us isolated,” Gary said.
When it comes to hotels, Deacon Jim Vargas from Father Joe's told ABC 10News in a statement, “Hotel rooms were not available to move people into isolation so Father Joe's Villages and the San Diego Housing Commission worked quickly to ensure that every person had a continued roof over their heads. The most important thing was to move our neighbors into safe and dry shelter.”
“The temporary structures set up to provide isolation space for shelter residents who test positive are heated. Father Joe's Villages is providing water and meals to those who are staying in the temporary tents. In addition to meals, water and snacks are readily available throughout their stay. Shelter operators’ staff members are working hard to serve these shelter residents amid the challenging circumstances created by the pandemic. Sick residents are being provided nutrition and a secure place to recover. If anyone becomes seriously ill (beyond standard flu symptoms), shelter operators will connect them to emergency care immediately.”
Deacon Vagas also said in a written statement, “I pray the individuals who tested positive for COVID-19 have a speedy recovery and thank our staff for their continued diligence during the ongoing pandemic. Despite the increased challenges of the holidays, COVID-19, and the rain, our teams have made monumental efforts to protect the safety and well being of our residents and alleviate the suffering of our neighbors experiencing homelessness. Their dedication is not only inspiring, it’s heroic – and I cannot thank them enough.”