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Albuquerque Battles COVID Outbreak at City's Largest Homeless Shelter

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As temperature drop, homeless shelters struggle to accommodate those in need of shelter while also social distancing to prevent the spread of COVID-19. (quinntheislander/Pixabay)
As temperature drop, homeless shelters struggle to accommodate those in need of shelter while also social distancing to prevent the spread of COVID-19. (quinntheislander/Pixabay)
 By Roz Brown - Producer, Contact
October 21, 2020

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. - Albuquerque's largest homeless shelter recently was forced to stop accepting new clients after a serious COVID-19 outbreak, and homeless-service providers are working to prevent a repeat.

Albuquerque's westside homeless shelter reported about 100 positive tests in the past two weeks.

Lisa Huval is the deputy director for housing and homelessness efforts for the city of Albuquerque, which has stepped up efforts to identify the best ways to house and keep as many folks safe during winter as possible.

"We have historically had enough beds to accommodate everyone who's seeking shelter," said Huval. "But if we want to maintain as much social-distancing as we can, then we do need to explore other like options."

Huval said residents of the westside shelter who were experiencing symptoms or had been exposed to someone with COVID-19 were isolated and tested. She added that some hotels are housing those who tested positive to help curb further spread among the homeless population.

New COVID-19 cases in New Mexico have risen sharply in recent days and are six times higher than five weeks ago.

The city has also established protocols for identifying the most vulnerable among the homeless, including seniors and those with chronic medical conditions that put them at risk.

Brie Sillery, communications strategist with the New Mexico Coalition to End Homelessness in Albuquerque, said the community could help by donating masks, hand sanitizer, cash and other items to homeless shelters, and by practicing compassion.

"The other really big thing that people can do, even if they don't have extra resources to contribute, is to know that there's nowhere for people to go right now," said Sillery.

Sillery said as nighttime temperatures continue to drop, providers in northern New Mexico cities such as Santa Fe and Taos are working round the clock to determine how best to help those experiencing homelessness amid COVID-19.

New Mexico has had some of the most restrictive health orders in place since the pandemic began.

Disclosure: New Mexico Coalition to End Homelessness contributes to our fund for reporting on Domestic Violence/Sexual Assault, Housing/Homelessness. If you would like to help support news in the public interest, click here.
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