Today, At-Large DC Council candidate Ed Lazere released a statement urging the District to take immediate action to support vulnerable residents experiencing homelessness, which is critical to protecting the health of DC residents and to limiting the impact of the coronavirus crisis on DC’s health system. The statement reads as follows:
“Our neighbors experiencing homelessnes are always at risk, but especially now in the coronavirus crisis. DC’s leaders should take immediate and assertive action to protect vulnerable homeless residents, as other communities across the country are doing. This is extremely important to limiting the number of COVID-19 deaths in our community. And it’s an important part of keeping DC’s health system from being overwhelmed.
Every day, the District provides overnight shelter to thousands of single adults, many of them elderly and many in poor physical health. The sleeping arrangements in shelters typically involve large groups of people sleeping close to each other, at a time when the CDC urges people to not congregate in large groups and to stay at least 6 feet from each other.
This means that DC’s shelter system is particularly at-risk for spreading the coronavirus and endangering the lives of many DC residents. An outbreak of coronavirus in DC shelters could quickly overwhelm DC’s health system.
We need to act immediately to protect our most vulnerable neighbors. I urge the District to act now to protect the health and safety of our residents experiencing homelessness. This starts with identifying new places to house homeless residents, prioritizing those who are most physically frail, so that they can be isolated from others. Communities such as Seattle and Oakland are using large public facilities and hotels for this purpose.
Using hotels in DC would serve the added purpose of steering resources to our suffering hospitality industry.
Beyond that, the District should make immediate plans to prepare a facility for homeless residents who become infected and need to be separated from other people. Taking these steps now will help save the lives of some of our most vulnerable residents. It also will help keep our health system from being overwhelmed.
The coronavirus crisis has brought a focus on many of our city and nation’s worst inequities, including homelessness. Even before this crisis, homelessness has cut short the lives of many of our neighbors, including over 100 people last year.
Any DC resident without a home should always be seen as a crisis, and we need to step up now to solve it amid COVID, but we also need solutions to solve it permanently. That is why I’ve worked for years to advocate for policies and funding to end homelessness in DC, and why I will fight for this as an At-Large member of the DC Council.