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Salt Lake County plans for homeless community during COVID-19 outbreak

Posted at 6:26 PM, Mar 17, 2020
and last updated 2020-03-18 00:04:16-04

SALT LAKE COUNTY — Salt Lake City Police cleared out the homeless camps nears Liberty Square Tuesday.

Workers with the Salt Lake County Health Department joined police to help explain the dangers of staying together with the outbreak of COVID-19.

Dorraine Olson has been homeless for two years and said her biggest fear with the coronavirus is not knowing where she can go.

“With the virus out now? We’re even more scared,” said Olson.

A camp of about 100, Olson said, lives together down at the square.

SLC Police moved Olson and her friends out of their camps, in hopes to break up social groups that could be susceptible to getting and spreading COVID-19.

“The more we break that up and move it about, the easier it is to combat it and likewise, keep people safe,” said Det. Greg Wilking with SLC Police.

As homeless line up outside shelters throughout Salt Lake, County officials said they’re taking all measures to help their employees and volunteers stay safe while assisting the homeless.

“Gloves, masks, disinfectant,” said Katherine Fife, the director of programs and partnerships for Salt Lake County.

Fife said they’re also separating rooms within the shelters for those who are sick and trying to enforce social distancing.

Safety for employees and volunteers is imperative, but so is the safety of those who are homeless, said Fife.

“We have put up a hand washing station and porta potties at library square downtown,” said Fife.

The County is also preparing for an influx in people using their facilities.

“It’s not just how do we communicate with those currently experiencing homelessness, but what are the policies in place to make sure that number does not increase?” said David Litvack, the senior policy advisor for the Salt Lake City Mayor’s Office.

Litvack said they’ve always worked on how to improve resources for the homeless, but now they’re trying to figure out how to accomplish this while keeping everyone healthy.

The number of volunteers has decreased because of COVID-19 and now the County is trying to come up with new ways to help the homeless.