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Addressing COVID-19 in the Homeless Community

Last content update: 4/24/2020


The County of Santa Clara, City of San Jose, and Continuum of Care partners have been working together to address the needs of homeless individuals affected by the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak locally.

597 homeless individuals have been connected to appropriate congregate or non-congregate shelter. As part of this effort, every known homeless person who has tested positive for COVID-19 has been provided shelter.  We've moved some individuals from congregate shelters to non-congregate settings. We continue to prioritize non-congregate sheltering for homeless individuals who:

  • have tested positive for COVID-19;
  • have confirmed exposure or are under investigation for COVID-19;
  • and/or are at greater risk for serious illness or death due to age or an underlying health condition.

​To support this effort, the County and City have vastly expanded their temporary shelter capacity - adding a total of 1,245 additional units/beds to their temporary shelter inventory. This includes:

  • 575 motel/hotel rooms across 10 sites in six cities (Gilroy, Milpitas, Morgan Hill, San Jose, Santa Clara and Sunnyvale);
  • 250 beds in the Field Respite Center operating out of the Santa Clara Convention Center for COVID-19 positive patients;
  • 420 temporary shelter beds at Gateway Pavilion at the Santa Clara County Fairgrounds, Parkside Hall and South Hall in Downtown San Jose, and a family shelter at Camden Community Center.

Efforts are underway to add hundreds of additional hotel/motel units/beds and prepare more than 100 trailers received by the City of San Jose from the State for occupancy. The City of San Jose has also initiated plans to expedite development of additional Bridge Housing Communities, which would be available as emergency housing during this crisis. The first of these units are expected to be completed in late June.
All 10 existing shelters continue to operate 24/7, and four seasonal shelters will continue operations through at least May 3.

Steps to stop the spread of COVID-19 in the homeless community

 The City, County and partners also took immediate actions for those in encampments. Listed here is a summary of activities underway to assist those living in encampments during this crisis: 

  • Suspending abatements of homeless encampments to avoid unintentionally placing people at greater risk of exposure to COVID-19;
  • Placing hygiene equipment such as handwashing stations and portable toilets at large homeless encampments to help slow the spread of COVID-19;
  • Arranging for garbage collection at large homeless encampments to help maintain sanitary conditions;
  • Providing information in multiple languages to homeless individuals in shelters, on the streets, and in encampments to help them understand how they can protect themselves from COVID-19;
  • Working with County Public Health and Valley Homeless Healthcare Program (VHHP) to identify older homeless individuals with chronic health conditions who should be sheltered or isolated;
  • County Emergency Operations Center provided 200 solar phone chargers that were distributed with the help of street outreach teams, volunteers and nonprofits;
  • Destination Home provided funding for tents, tarps and other supplies to assist those living in encampments to implement social distancing;
  • Project WeHope, in partnership with the City of San Jose, launched "Hope Health Mobile." The new mobile rest stop travels in conjunction with its Dignity on Wheels shower and laundry trailers offering WiFi, charging stations, case management, and access to Stanford doctors virtually answering questions about COVID-19.

 Outreach to Homeless Individuals

The County has tapped Valley Homeless Healthcare Program (VHHP) and Gardner Health Services, non-profit partners, with identifying homelessness individuals and screening people who have three or more of the underlying health conditions identified by the CDC that make them at high risk if they were to contract COVID-19. We have prioritized sheltering these at-risk individuals. Additionally, medical providers go out to encampments, shelters and community-based organizations multiple times per week throughout the City and County to share information about COVID-19 and provide medical care.
The City and County also have a group of volunteers who are already concerned and invested in assisting people who are homeless. We have tasked our volunteer partners with sharing information about COVID-19 along with distributing hand sanitizers and protective equipment to the unsheltered.
Individuals who are not being tested or monitored are encouraged to access existing and new shelters. We are also encouraging individuals who remain outdoors to set up their tents/sleeping quarters 12 ft. by 12 ft. of space per individual.
The local response is evolving rapidly with more sites identified and more rooms becoming available and booked. See the City of San José  Homelessness Response Resources for more information. 

Last updated: 5/12/2020 12:48 PM