Many Homeless on Skid Row Say No One is Telling them How to Stop Spread of Virus

While much of Los Angeles is practicing “social distancing,” that’s not the case on Skid Row and at most encampments where the homeless live in dangerously close quarters. 

On Skid Row this morning, the NBC4 I-Team saw people lining up shoulder-to-shoulder to get handouts of food, and we documented people coughing on people right next to them.

“Up until now, me and my neighbor didn’t know what coronavirus was,” says Cricket, who has lived on Skid Row for 20 years.

“This is almost like we’re the forgotten people down here. Nobody’s informed us. Nobody’s made a public announcement about the virus,” says Cricket.

So far, the city of LA’s main effort to prevent coronavirus from spreading in the homeless population is to place 250 hand washing stations near encampments.

That’s not nearly enough to avert possible disaster, according to Reverend Andy Bales, who runs the Union Rescue Mission.

“I would greatly prefer if the county would immediately get people off the streets and into facilities,” Bales told NBC4. “If there’s ever been a need for a FEMA-like response, it’s now.”

The Mission is taking its own steps to prevent coronavirus among its 1,000 homeless clients. It has set up special quarantine areas to stay for people who are experiencing flu-like symptoms.

“It’s possible we may quarantine people, and they might want to leave, and we’ll have to let them go on the street,” says Bales.

Other homeless advocates are calling on the city and county of LA to have more aggressive outreach efforts to educate the homeless about coronavirus.

“It’s like HIV when it first came out and they posted a lot of stuff about HIV,” says Kevin Call, a formerly homeless man who now helps feed and counsel people on Skid Row. 

“We need to post something about the virus that’s going around and about different measures and ways people can deal with it without catching it,” Call says.