By Mary L. G. Theroux
Although I stand by my assertion in my previous post that “Death by coronavirus is not the solution to the homeless crisis anyone wants,” the City of San Francisco’s actions are certainly making it seem otherwise.
The homeless, and especially the chronically homeless who comprise most of the people on the streets, are largely male, older, and unhealthy. Living on the streets takes a toll that makes a 50 year-old homeless person more comparable to a 70 year-old non-homeless person. By definition, therefore, this is a highly vulnerable population for whom social distancing guidelines would be especially relevant. Yet at the same time, life on the streets precludes following those guidelines. Homeless encampments, especially in a geographically-constrained city like San Francisco, are closely-packed and lack facilities for basic hygiene, much less hand-washing stations.
“People are given a wristband with their bed number on it and shown to a tiny mat on the floor with a folding chair. There aren’t many people staying here yet, but there are going to be hundreds of people, all breathing each other’s coughs.”
Fortunately, protests erupted before the space could be populated, and the city backed off from using it.
Local residents and philanthropists whose hearts go out to the homeless—or who simply want to help forestall a true pandemic among the vast unhoused population in their midst—would be well advised to quickly seek out private agencies with ready solutions such as the Salvation Army.
is Senior Vice President of the Independent Institute.