SLO Co. homeless shelters work with health dept. to prep trailers, motels to house homeless with COVID-19

Posted at 5:33 PM, Mar 27, 2020

There have been no positive cases of COVID-19 at San Luis Obispo County homeless shelters so far, but staff members are preparing for that to change.

The entire state of California is under a stay at home order, an effort by the governor to curb the spread of COVID-19, but for those who don't have a home, it may be challenging to limit the spread.

Shelters like ECHO Homeless Shelter in Atascadero and 40 Prado in San Luis Obispo are taking extra precautions during the pandemic; bagging meals, checking temperatures and prepping trailers for quarantine.

"We would let them know that we have someone that is symptomatic. Here, they would be isolated in the trailer and then we would work with the county to get them into one of those hotel rooms and get testing and make sure they are getting all the things they need," said Wendy Lewis, ECHO CEO.

San Luis Obispo County Public Health officials also secured four motels to care for homeless people showing signs of COVID-19.

"I don't know what I would do. I'm a survivor, but still, I couldn't imagine living on the streets with what's going on right now," said Albert Bolin II, a resident at ECHO.

Bolin said he's lucky he found temporary housing at ECHO just before the coronavirus outbreak.

He's one of 13 people who are moving into permanent homes in April and it couldn't have come at a better time.

Unfortunately, not everyone is as lucky as Bolin. Officials said there aren't enough resources to serve everyone, especially newcomers.

"Imagine if we opened our doors literally and just let hundreds of people in on a daily basis that have been out in the community. What we are actually doing is really potentially harming those people who are trying to the best of their ability to 'shelter in place' in our shelter," said Grace McIntosh, Deputy Director of the Community Action Partnership of San Luis Obispo County.

County leaders are still trying to figure out how to help people living in encampments and working with these organizations to get a more concrete plan in place.

The Five Cities Homeless Coalition said they are working to get spaces at campgrounds so people can safely shelter in place.

County officials said if a person who comes to a local shelter is believed to have coronavirus symptoms, they will undergo additional medical screening and be evaluated by a medical professional to see if testing is required.

For those with cars, the Los Osos Library parking lot is now a safe and clean space to park and camp overnight. SLO County also opened its second safe parking location Friday at the Coastal Dunes RV Park & Campground, at 1001 Pacific Blvd., Highway 1, in Oceano.

In Santa Barbara County, the Santa Maria High School Gym is being used as an emergency homeless shelter.

It's open every day from 6 a.m. to 9 p.m. off of Stowell Road.