DC-area homeless shelters face challenges amid COVID-19 concerns

The D.C. region’s homeless shelters are facing challenges of their own as concerns around the spread of coronavirus continue.

Proactive measures, such as washing hands to ensure proper hygiene, have been a challenge in the homeless community, one of the most vulnerable populations.

“They typically have compromised immune systems and often times already have chronic health issues,” said Joseph Mettimano, president of D.C.-based nonprofit Central Union Mission.

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Mettimano said the focus is mainly around preventive work because coronavirus in a shelter would spread quickly.

“We’ve gone the extra step of taking folks’ body temperature during check-in, and if somebody is showing signs of fever and other symptoms, we are sending them to get medical attention,” Mettimano said.

In addition to ensuring the health of those in need, access to hand sanitizer has been a challenge. Central Union Mission is now asking the public to assist in any way, whether through financial donations or hygiene products.

Central Union Mission also urges city leaders to plan for the possibility that the coronavirus will begin spreading within the homeless community.

“The city needs to be prepared to take those folks in, in order to quarantine them,” added Mettimano. “There is no such thing as quarantining within a homeless shelter.”

If you do see someone on the street who could possibly be ill, contact EMS or local officials to get the person help.

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Melissa Howell

Melissa Howell joined WTOP Radio in March 2018 and is excited to cover stories that matter across D.C., as well as in Maryland and Virginia. 

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