PORTLAND, OR (KPTV) — Homeless services organizations are working hard to educate people about COVID-19 as well as the importance of social distancing.
At the Union Gospel Mission, their Search and Rescue team on the road is helping spread that message.
Homeless Services Director Adam Moore said only about 25 percent of Portland’s homeless population lives in Old Town. The team works to provide food, water, blankets and the like to the other 75 percent.
Now, they’re also talking to people about coronavirus, including passing out flyers that explain symptoms and how to stop the spread.
“Washing my hands, being more courteous with others because we’re all going through something you know, cut each other a break. Cut myself a break,” Ron Gwyman, who was receiving food, said.
But not everyone is as up to speed. Moore said sometimes getting the message across is tough.
“People that we serve are just trying to get through today right. So, it’s hard to focus on a huge and not really something they deal with every day, and something they’re not facing in their immediate circumstances,” Moore said.
The executive director at the Blanchet House said they’ve experienced the same thing and find it especially difficult to keep people separated in line while they’re waiting for meals to go.
“We’re asked all the time by people we’re feeding what’s going on? Why is everything shut down? They have never heard of coronavirus, so this feels very strange and aggressive to them. So, we’re doing our best to try to meet their needs for food and clothing and do it with a sense of compassion and a sense of hospitality,” Executive Director Scott Kerman said.
Government leaders say they’re taking this seriously too. The Joint Office of Homeless Services is getting information out to those who need it, and Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler said more than a dozen organizations have been going to camps to encourage social distancing.
The city is suspending camp clean-ups right now based on CDC guidelines, except for if a camp becomes dangerous.
Otherwise, the mayor said it’s safer for people who are already camped together to stay together.
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