by Sterling

Over the last three weeks, James Talib-Dean Camp has had only one positive COVID-19 case out of 58 tests completed. We have come together as a community to provide support around PPE, physical distance and handwashing.

One of the reasons that individuals do not enter shelters is because of the close proximity and spread of disease. Across the country, cities have had to deal with the current shelter system’s inadequacy to respond to COVID-19. At Boston’s Pine Street Inn, providers found that 36% of residents tested positive. At San Francisco’s largest shelter, MSC-South, more than 90 residents tested positive and 10 staff members. Many of the residents were asymptomatic too. In May, 63 residents tested positive, around 50% of the residents, at Sunday Breakfast Rescue Mission, Philadelphia’s largest men’s shelter. Additionally, there was an outbreak at Our Brother’s Place in early April where a person died from the virus.

The city has refused to end its current policy of homeless sweeps which coerce unhoused persons into shelters and congregate settings which are likely to cause disease and potentially cause death. Activists and Organizers have gathered together to provide a space where unhoused people are not regularly harassed by the police and social workers. By remaining outdoors, we have avoided a large outbreak like in the current shelter system.

Over the last few weeks, as we see an increase in COVID-19 cases in the city, we know that it will be important to remain vigilant around stopping viral spread. We will continue to practice physical distancing practices, encourage handwashing and wearing masks as well as offer testing.

We encourage City Officials and the Business Community to do their part:

  • Hold the Philadelphia Housing Authority accountable and force them to make vacant properties available to Workers Revolutionary Collective to put into a community land trust.
  • Use the CARES grant money of $34 million in Emergency Solutions Grant money specifically for persons currently experiencing homelessness offering portable subsidies.
  • Open 4 hotels to house persons at risk of contracting COVID-19 with chronic conditions: for example, asthma, COPD, diabetes, emphysema, bronchitis, and kidney disease, HIV, and Hepatitis C. Ensure that those individuals do not go back to homelessness after the hotel stay.
  • Open another sanctioned encampment immediately for currently unhoused persons to stay permanently with sanitation and hygiene facilities.

In general, the city’s response has been a colossal failure. City officials, the business community and hospital systems have shown that they put profits over people again and again and again. Their neglect and abuse is criminal.

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