CHICAGO (CBS) — As the COVID-19 pandemic continues to impact life in Chicago, the city’s mayor announced several programs to help the homeless during the coronavirus crisis.
During her daily coronavirus briefing, Mayor Lori Lightfoot couldn’t say whether April 30 would be the last day of the stay-at-home order for city residents.
“I think it’s going to be difficult. I don’t think that’s going to happen. I think it will extend beyond that,” Lightfoot said.” And we are in the process of thinking about even when we get to a point where we feel safe from a public health standpoint, what will be the sequencing of lifting that stay. That’s a conversation we need to have with the governor and his team.”
Lightfoot said the city is expanding spaces and services for the homeless, including spaces dedicated to women and children.
“Though no one is immune to COVID-19, this pandemic has all too clearly revealed the chasms in our society and serves as a wake-up call on the life-and-death urgency of closing the gaps in equity and opportunity now, and in the months and years to come,” Lightfoot said.
The commissioner of the city’s department of health, Dr. Allison Arwady, said the agency will deploy nurses to homeless facilities for visits for in-person screenings and informational sessions.
“The success of this effort is rooted in partnerships across non-profit, healthcare, and advocacy organizations. It’s so important that we focus on congregate settings and direct resources to prevent the spread of COVID-19 among this population, doubly so because this is also a group where under-lying health conditions are often a concern,” Arwady said.
The ability to set up strategies to contain COVID-19 is affected by the settings of those who live in close quarters. The city said it is working to “rapidly identify and address cases in congregate settings.”
The city is getting help from Rush University Medical Center. More than 700 shelter residents can now be tested for COVID-19.
According to the city of Chicago, many of those who are homelessness and test positive for COVID-19 also need support for mental health and substance abuse issues. To make sure they have a safe place to recover, the city is partnering with A Safe Haven, Rush University Medical Center and Heartland Alliance for a 100-bed isolation facility.
Partnering with the YMCA of Metro Chicago and the Salvation Army, DFSS opened temporary shelter sites with a total of 699 beds to decompress congregate settings and allow for appropriate social distancing.
“”Stay at home assumes home. Department of public health partners across a city cannot forget people who don’t have a home. This kind of rapid, citywide response is only possible because so many organizations have come together with a shared commitment to protecting Chicago’s homeless population,” Arwady said.