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County, state homeless COVID-19 plan moving too slowly for advocates

Posted: 3:24 PM, Mar 22, 2020
Updated: 2020-03-23 10:47:36-04
Homeless tents in Phoenix

PHOENIX — The clock is ticking for our state's homeless population, when it comes to preventing the potentially devastating effects of the coronavirus

Advocates who have been waiting for action from County and State officials, are now looking for their own ways to move the most vulnerable out of crowded shelters before it's too late.

Since March 12 ABC15 has been pressing public health officials about how it plans to prevent, treat, and quarantine the more than six thousand people experiencing homelessness around Maricopa County should COVID-19 strike that community. Many are senior citizens and have underlying conditions, which are the groups for which the mortality rate is the highest.

At the time county health officials told ABC15 it was "in conversation with several partners who serve the homeless population...for a collaborative approach."

On Sunday, Maricopa County Public Health spokesperson Sonia Singh told ABC15 it is working with the Human Services Campus, CASS, and Circle the City to outline a plan for how to separate ill people from those who are healthy, look for a way to test people who have symptoms, and identify where those who test positive can safely isolate."

ABC15 has also learned our state's largest emergency shelter Central Arizona Shelter Services (CASS) has decided it can't wait any longer. With 86 people in the shelter over the age of 60, the agency says it has begun searching for hotel rooms around the valley with the hopes of moving people next week.

Patrick Ptak, spokesman for Gov. Doug Ducey tells us it is looking at a number of options, "including securing a waiver to provide emergency housing assistance to vulnerable populations through AHCCCS and offering up overflow housing options."

ABC15 is still working to find out when and where the new housing is coming from given our state's limited inventory. Ptak said they are,"working with urgency," with the County to identify locations.