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Homeless population more vulnerable to COVID-19 exposure, experts say

People experiencing homelessness can get screened by Unity Healthcare.

WASHINGTON D.C., DC — They’re often the forgotten population, those experiencing homelessness. While we might be able to self-isolate at home, the homeless don’t really have a choice. On Thursday and for many days to come, staff with Unity Healthcare will be hitting the streets to screen the homeless for the coronavirus.

Every night, thousands of people sleep inside of D.C. shelters.  The CDC is recommending that people don’t gather in groups larger than 10, but the homeless don’t have anywhere else to go. They seek safety at the shelters and risk getting exposed to the coronavirus.  Now, Unity Healthcare is doing its part to help the D.C. homeless population during the coronavirus pandemic. They want to ensure that those who are experiencing homelessness get screened.

“I just believe in my God that I’m covered,” said LB. He's spent 20 years living on D.C. streets before getting a home. “Oh it’s been about four years now and I’m the happiest I’ve ever been.”

LB comes back to one of the same spots he spent many days and nights. 

“I’m out here every day," he said.

He’s getting screened for the coronavirus by Catherine Crossland, the Director at Unity Healthcare.

“We’ll be asking about fever and cough and shortness of breath. We have a mask in our bags to offer to folks if they are coughing.” Crossland said.

Crossland said the spread of the coronavirus is making this population more vulnerable.

“For me, this is the perfect example of why housing is healthcare. Because if everyone in D.C. had somewhere to go, and self-quarantine, or protect themselves from being exposed to this, then we wouldn’t be so worried about this population,” said Crossland.

As for LB, he didn’t show signs of needing to be tested for the coronavirus. His blood pressure was just a tad high. He’s hoping now to spread the word to everyone he knows, who might need more help. He says he wants everyone to focus on what he calls "the true disease."  

“What are [we] really about to do about the homeless? Because when this is all said and done, the homeless disease will still be here,” said LB.

Many of the shelters also have clinics in them and are staying open during the day so people don’t have to leave.

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