State officials announce measures to help homeless population fight COVID-19, shelters increase guest screenings

On Thursday afternoon, Gov. Baker announced the state will be offering temporary help for the homeless dealing with the deadly virus.

BOSTON — Ever since the United States heightened it’s advisories and warnings for the novel coronavirus pandemic that has since spread globally, everyone started taking hygiene and sanitization practices more seriously.

Some people chose to quarantine inside their homes, while others were forced to under shelter-in-place orders, but in Massachusetts a stay-at-home advisory issued by Governor Charlie Baker has effectively kept people indoors in efforts to curb the spread of the virus.

But, how do you stay home if you’re homeless?

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On Thursday afternoon, Baker announced the state will be offering temporary help for the homeless dealing with the deadly virus. Shelters across the state have started taking in guests, but after someone tested positive for coronavirus at the Pine Street Inn in Boston, there has been more scrutiny over hygiene and sanitization at shelters in the state.

Usually, Methadone Mile in Boston’s South End neighborhood is packed with those in need, but as COVID-19 continues to spread, efforts to help the homeless population have kept them off the streets.

Shelters have begun screening guests upon entry at shelters, asking people where they have been and if they’ve presented symptoms recently.

“They ask you a bunch of questions, [like] ‘Have you come in contact with anyone who had the virus?,’” said Dennis Wilson, a 55-year-old Alabama man who is currently homeless.

The Newton Pavilion, the newest shelter set up by the state for the homeless population looking to quarantine, has several requirements for guests, including:

-Testing positive for COVID-19 with mild symptoms who don’t need hospitalization, but need to stay isolated

- Being symptomatic and waiting for test results

- Having been discharged from a facility for being treated for the virus, and don’t have a place to go

- Acute care for sicker patients

“The whole capacity has room for 250 beds,” said Baker. “We certainly view this as a critical step to helping the Commonwealth secure enough space and care for homeless individuals.”

The facility will serve as a place where homeless individuals who feel sick can turn to for help.

Mike, who is also currently homeless, said he’s satisfied the government is reaching out and helping the homeless population, because usually he says, “nobody cares about homeless people, they just don’t care.”

Despite the temporary help, Mike feels this isn’t solving the root of the issue.

“I can’t stress it enough, how much mental health help is needed,” said Mike. “Mostly mental health, and 25%responsibility in that person to do it.”

Last week, two more locations opened up, the Barbara McInnis house and 112 South Hampton Street. The city also announced $2.5 million in grants to help the healthcare system for the homeless population.