Denver Service Provider Testing Homeless Individuals for Coronavirus

The Colorado Coalition for the Homeless is testing homeless individuals for COVID-19.
The Colorado Coalition for the Homeless is testing homeless individuals for COVID-19. Pexels
Recognizing that homeless individuals in Denver are at a heightened risk for contracting the coronavirus, a local homeless-services provider has begun testing individuals for COVID-19.

"A lot of these people are using the shelter system or might be staying in an encampment," says Cathy Alderman of the Colorado Coalition for the Homeless, which has implemented testing at its Stout Street Health Center. "In order to contain the spread, we need to know to the best of our abilities who is actually carrying it."

The Stout Street Health Center is now offering testing for homeless individuals over the age of 64, those with chronic medical conditions, like diabetes and chronic heart disease, and those who have recently developed symptoms associated with COVID-19.

Since opening the testing services on March 13, the coalition has triaged approximately 170 people experiencing homelessness and tested 45 of them. Although the coalition reports that no one has tested positive so far, they're still waiting for results for some. Of Colorado's 591 confirmed COVID-19 cases, 125 have been in Denver, which is currently under a state of emergency.

With social distancing impossible inside Denver's homeless shelters and at homeless tent encampments, the coalition is securing private hotel rooms for homeless individuals who are tested for possible COVID-19 so that they can isolate.

"The goal is to not have somebody who is symptomatic and awaiting test results go back into the shelter system," says Alderman.

The coalition will also provide private hotel rooms for those who test positive and need to continue self-isolating.

Alderman is asking for hotel and motel operators to contact the coalition if they have "rooms they can make available for this purpose." Also, the coalition is requesting that people donate personal protective equipment for staff and sanitizing supplies.

"The coalition is adding health-care staff to keep pace with the growing number of people turning to us for care. We are using limited funds to help pay for motel nights as emergency housing for those awaiting results of COVID-19 testing. We are going through supplies like masks, gloves, soap and other sanitation supplies faster than our budget in order to keep facilities clean, patients and staff safe. These steps are expected to cost an extra $1.3 million over the next four months," Alderman says.

The Stout Street Health Center is located at 2130 Stout Street; testing services are only for people experiencing homelessness, at risk of becoming homeless, or extremely low-income. See the hours of operation here.
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Conor McCormick-Cavanagh is a staff writer at Westword, where he covers a range of beats, including local politics, immigration and homelessness. He previously worked as a journalist in Tunisia and loves to talk New York sports.