Placer County acts to address homeless concerns during COVID-19 pandemic

Published April 17, 2020

Working closely with local, state and federal partners, Placer County Public Health is moving quickly to protect the homeless population from COVID-19 and slow the spread of the disease in the broader community.

First, the county has worked to temporarily expand shelter space – both to increase the number of beds available, but also to enable proper physical distancing at existing facilities. Health and Human Services has worked with local shelter operator The Gathering Inn to implement sanitation measures at both Mid and South Placer locations, as well as working with other local homeless service providers.

“Individuals experiencing homelessness frequently have serious, untreated health conditions and are therefore at greater risk of serious illness from COVID-19,” said Health Officer Dr. Aimee Sisson. “Protecting this population is critical, and helps protect the wider community and prevent pressure on our hospital system. We are grateful for the community partners who have been working with us on this effort.”

Under direction from the State of California under Project Roomkey, Placer County is also exploring use of trailers and hotels to temporarily house homeless individuals, should existing sheltering capacity be exceeded. Several dozen beds have been identified thus far. This includes housing at-risk homeless individuals, such as those who are elderly or with underlying health conditions. In some cases, it may involve housing people who have been exposed and must quarantine, or who are ill with symptoms consistent with COVID-19 but who do not require hospitalization or are recovering.

The intent of this is to reduce the spread of COVID-19 in our community by safely getting these vulnerable individuals off the streets and out of congregate shelter environments. If ill, they can fully recover in a controlled environment while not infecting others.

Protective measures will be in place at hotels and motels to ensure the safety of guests, the community and employees. Safe transport will be arranged. Meals, laundry and other essential supplies will be provided to guests by county staff or contractors, wearing personal protective equipment when necessary. Any symptomatic guests would be offered shelter until medically cleared. Either county staff or hired security will be onsite 24/7.

Once quarantine or isolation is completed, individuals would return to a shelter or other housing environment, or to their previous area of residency if more permanent housing solutions aren’t available.

Homeless individuals wishing to access basic shelter and housing services must call the homeless hotline, 1-833-3PLACER, a toll-free number available 24/7. The county will only accept referrals for symptomatic or ill patients from local hospitals and pre-identified homeless providers, to minimize the impact on hospitals.