The Privilege of Sheltering In Place

  • I found myself thanking our government entities for being protective of people like me (and everyone else) when they issued the shelter-in-place orders across the nation.
  • Safe sleep sites give the homeless encampments the logistics of social distancing and will also offer showers and food.
  • The safe sleeping sites in San Francisco are the beginning of what a society can do when a global pandemic tells them something must be done.

So many Americans have spent the mass majority of 2020 angry. Angry at Coronavirus. Angry at Trump. Angry at China. Angry at the lady who got the last pack of toilet paper at the store. Angry at the “stay-at-home” orders in the city where they live and work. I am a Diabetic, I have no spleen, I have Hidradenitis Suppurativa, and Systemic Scleroderma. I found myself thanking our government entities for being protective of people like me (and everyone else) when they issued the shelter-in-place orders across the nation.

COVID-19 has and will continue to change the way we move in “the new normal” and it will change life for the homeless as well.

Those words, though. Shelter-in-place. Stay-at-Home. How does one abide by these orders when they have no place to shelter in, no home to stay in? As Americans, we have lost sight of just how fortunate we are. We hoard toilet paper. Why? Because we have a toilet to use.

COVID-19 has and will continue to change the way we move in “the new normal” and it will change life for the homeless as well. San Francisco is on the cusp of setting an example for the rest of our nation in the address of our homeless population.  San Francisco is going to move their homeless to the forefront. There will now be city-sanctioned open-air encampments.

These safe sleep sites give the homeless encampments the logistics of social distancing and will also offer showers and food. Most of us heard of the viral posting out of  Vegas where lines were painted in a hotel parking lot to guide the homeless to a safe distance to sleep apart from one another. San Francisco is doing guidance and assistance in the right way. Medical referrals, clean face coverings, and more intervention will take place. Since the green light has been given by the “powers that be” I can see services being performed such as inspection of diabetic feet, coordination of veterans with the benefits they have available to them, children receiving vaccinations and medical care.

We are not a survival of the fittest hierarchy. We are not a people who leave the lesser of their people behind to be ravaged by famine and pandemic.

This situation is a prime opportunity to provide healthcare to the homeless every week. Bring in a doctor each night at each sight for emergencies. The doctor can triage the patient on-site at the safe sleeping site and decide if a trip to the hospital is a necessity. A weekly clinic can be held. The doctor does not even have to be at the site. The appointment can be held through telehealth. Some say I’m a dreamer, I say I’m a visionary. It can happen.

Some people do not want safe sleep sites to come to fruition. Some people would rather see the homeless people sleeping beneath bridges, hidden in the dark places of their city. These are the people who don’t recognize that it’s a privilege to be able to wash your hands frequently while singing the birthday song. These are the same people who believe that if you sleep on the streets, you must be okay with being dirty and have no care for the management of your health.

COVID-19 has forced many eyes to be upon them. They cannot wash their hands. They do not have clean clothes let alone clean face coverings. The safe sleeping sites in San Francisco are the beginning of what a society can do when a global pandemic tells them something must be done. We are not a survival of the fittest hierarchy. We are not a people who leave the lesser of their people behind to be ravaged by famine and pandemic. We are Americans, and if we say we are proud to be Americans we are the people who build open-air encampments and provide safety, soap, water, food, and medical care. We the people.

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hwest

Heidi West is a medical writer that writes about healthcare and technology.

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