For those looking for a positive local story amidst the ongoing COVID-19 crisis, we have some encouraging news to share.
679 individuals currently staying within Jacksonville homeless shelters – which includes Sulzbacher, Trinity Rescue Mission, Salvation Army, Clara White Mission, Hubbard House, and City Rescue Mission – were tested for COVID-19. Those who utilize the city’s Urban Rest Stop locations were also tested. Every individual who was tested has tested negative, according to Quest Diagnostics.
The testing, which was carried out at the beginning of the month by UF Health and Sulzbacher, came as a result of coordination efforts from local agency Changing Homelessness and the city’s Task Force on Homelessness, aimed at protecting the city’s vulnerable homeless population from COVID-19 infection. Homeless individuals are, by the nature of their situations, less capable of social distancing, isolating when sick, and other essential precautions – and infectious diseases, such as COVID-19, can spread quickly among homeless populations as a result.
As a result, the city had put several preventative measures in place, including plans to utilize local hotels to house those who needed to be quarantined. A second Urban Rest Stop opened at the Salvation Army building to provide additional safe space. Volunteers sewed masks and gathered protective equipment, and protective protocols were established by service providers.
With the help of New York-based nonprofit Community Solutions, the city was chosen as one of two – Phoenix being the other – to receive testing for homeless individuals from Quest.
The testing effort, and its encouraging results, were profiled on the Epidemic podcast, and both Sulzbacher and UF Health are expected to publish their findings.
So as other major cities such as Washington, D.C., grapple with outbreaks among their homeless populations, Jax residents can take solace in the fact that, at least for now, the local homeless population appears to be in good health.