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Environment / Climate change

For the homeless, vacant hotels pose their own risks during quarantine

Hotel rooms are sitting empty around the world right now, while millions of people experiencing homelessness are unable to safely isolate themselves from others.

As officials and advocates consider ways to help unsheltered people protect themselves from the coronavirus, CityMetric’s Jake Blumgart reports that it’s not as simple as pairing a person with an empty hotel room. For one thing, it’d cost a lot of money that cities don’t have. For another, the people who may get the rooms could have their own reasons for not wanting to stay in them.

“These new hotels they’ve got, a lot of people are sceptical and scared about going up there”, says Latanya Wilson, an unhoused resident of San Francisco. “What I’ve been hearing, once you get up there you can’t go anywhere. … If people are infected, they are treating them like segregation, and they gotta stay in there all day. No one really wants to come around them because they got the virus”.

Depending on the place, hotels can have strict security and a complex array of rules, from banning pets to only allowing people to leave for 20-minute increments each day. Marshall fears those kinds of restrictions may keep homeless residents out of the hotels, even if they test positive.

Read Jake’s piece about the hurdles of housing the homeless: Why US cities haven’t just given every homeless person a hotel room during the pandemic

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