FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
June 11, 2020
Vice President of Communications and Public Policy
Colorado Coalition for the Homeless
COVID-19 Prevalence Rate of 0% Found in People Experiencing Homelessness and Living in An Encampment in Downtown Denver – Other Health Risks Identified
DENVER, CO--On Monday, June 8, Colorado Coalition for the Homeless (CCH) in partnership with Denver Public Health (DPH) and the Denver Department of Public Health and Environment (DDPHE) conducted a voluntary COVID-19 testing pilot for people experiencing homelessness and living unsheltered in the downtown area around the CCH Stout Street Health Center. Encampments were notified by Denver Street Outreach Collaborative (DSOC) members a few days before that testing would take place on Monday morning at Stout and 22nd Streets. Fifty people volunteered to be tested with tests obtained by DDPHE and administered by the DPH team. The following day, June 9, testing results were returned and 29 people were notified of their results with ongoing notification to the remaining volunteers. Of the fifty people tested, no one tested positive for COVID-19. The individuals who were tested were also screened for high-risk conditions including underlying medical conditions that could make them more susceptible to COVID-19 complications if they were to contract to the virus. During testing, eight individuals were identified as high-risk and eligible for referrals to protective action motel rooms due to age or underlying medical conditions. Seven people were relocated with one person declining. The most common high-risk conditions included Asthma, Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD), High Blood Pressure, and Diabetes. Fifteen of the individuals tested had COVID-19 related symptoms including shortness of breath, cough, feeling feverish, and muscle aches but after the testing, those symptoms were attributable to other conditions. Additional information about the testing pilot can be found here.
The Center for Disease Control (CDC) has recommended that during the COVID-19 pandemic, people living in encampments should remain where they are in order to prevent exposure and spread of the virus. The CDC also recommends that local and state governments provide sanitation and supportive services to encampments and continue to assist people with accessing healthcare services, shelter, and housing if it is available. These testing results demonstrate that while people experiencing homelessness who are living outside may be in danger from the elements, crime being perpetrated against them, other health risks, and enforcement of laws that punish their living situation, they are not more likely to be in danger of having or contracting COVID-19 while living in encampments. This is likely because they are living in their own self-contained space with the opportunity to isolate themselves in their tents.
To further protect these individuals from exposure to COVID-19, Colorado Coalition for the Homeless encourages Denver and its agencies to provide sanitation and support services to encampments during the pandemic response in line with CDC recommendations. There are many more people living unsheltered in Denver who haven’t been tested or screened for COVID-19 and are likely to be living with similar high-risk health conditions that could lead to severe health complications if they contract the virus. Until more testing is available and conducted, it is critical to follow CDC guidelines to prevent exposure and spread to and among our unhoused community members.
CCH will continue to work with the City of Denver and the Homeless Leadership Council to provide safe alternatives including motel/hotel rooms for people experiencing homelessness during the COVID-19 crisis. CCH encourages continuing to reduce harm and risk for people experiencing homelessness and focus on long-term housing and re-housing strategies to address the underlying crisis of homelessness in Denver. The public health crisis of COVID-19 has exposed deep gaps in the Denver homelessness response system and CCH demands a call to action to ensure that everyone has access to a safe place to call home. There cannot be a return to “business as usual” for homelessness in Denver after the COVID-19 crisis and the partnerships, cooperation, and knowledge that has been developed during this collaborative response should drive a collective commitment to resolve homelessness for all that are forced to endure it.
About the Colorado Coalition for the Homeless
The mission of the Colorado Coalition for the Homeless is to work collaboratively toward the prevention of homelessness and the creation of lasting solutions for people experiencing and at-risk of homelessness homeless throughout Colorado. The Coalition advocates for and provides a continuum of housing and a variety of services to improve the health, well-being and stability of those it serves. Since its founding more than 30 years ago, the organization has earned state and national recognition for its integrated healthcare, housing, and service programs. The Coalition’s comprehensive approach addresses the causes of homelessness, as well as the consequences, offering critical assistance to over 20,000 individuals and families each year. Learn more at www.coloradocoalition.org.