Agencies mobilize to prevent coronavirus spread through Stamford homeless population
STAMFORD — Advocates for Stamford’s homeless community say they are working to keep the coronavirus from spreading through the population.
Particular efforts have been made to protect those in groups most vulnerable to the illness. The week, 14 of the 80 people ages 60 and older staying at the Pacific House shelter were moved to a hotel, said Executive Director Rafael Pagan Jr.
On Friday another seven with medical conditions such as diabetes, cancer, high blood pressure and compromised immune systems were also moved into hotel rooms.
“It is a preemptive measure to protect them,” he said.
David Rich, executive director for Supportive Housing Works, a non-profit umbrella group that oversees homeless shelters and programs in Fairfield County, said plans are being made to move between 50 and 75 percent of the homeless out of shelters and into hotel rooms in the next week or so. He said the state is in negotiations to rent about 400 beds in 200 rooms in western Connecticut, about 265 of those beds would be given over to the Fairfield County homeless.
“What we are trying to do is get decompression in the shelters and get as many people out of the shelters as we can and into hotel rooms,” Rich said. “But we don’t have the resources to empty out all the shelters.”
Catholic Charities is now bringing lunch into the shelter on Pacific Street at midday, alleviating the need for clients to go over to the New Covenant House soup kitchen on Richmond Hill Avenue to eat. Clients also are eating in several shifts in order to keep distance between them, Pagan said. And while volunteers used to serve the population, staff and guests are now pitching in to help.
So far, none of the 550 people that the city’s homeless agencies, Inspirica and Pacific House, count as clients appear to have the virus — though none have been tested. If and when someone does contract the coronavirus, Pagan said the agency will work with Stamford Hospital and the Stamford Health Department to ensure they will be correctly placed an not moved back to the shelter.
Pacific House has another 120 guests in 10 multifamily homes around Stamford. Pagan said caseworkers are checking up on them, while following distancing guidelines. Each home houses two to five families.
“We are also telling them what to do if they are not feeling well and we are doing what we can to keep them safe,” he said.
Neither agency has seen an uptick in homelessness due to the pandemic at this point, said Pagan and Inspirica Chairman Bruce Heller.
Heller said Inspirica’s 350 clients have been educated about protecting themselves through hand washing, social distancing, frequently disinfecting surfaces and other basic methods.
“There is a new protocol where everybody is getting health screening. If anyone is feeling any symptoms they need to go see a physician,” Heller said. “This is not something we did before.” Because Inspirica clients are in close proximity to one another and many are in delicate medical states, they began the screenings at the end of February or very beginning of March, he said.
“We don’t have a case yet. We are holding our breath. Because we have a very fragile population, we are preparing for quarantine or isolation and dividing up where everyone will be housed,” Heller said. The organization has set up separate spaces for clients who need to self isolate and another for quarantine.