The Santa Clara County Fairgrounds will be transformed into a temporary homeless shelter to stop the spread of the coronavirus, and since Bay Area shelter in place orders are expected to be extended through May 1, the most vulnerable of the population may been there for several weeks.
The grounds have been used for fairs, community events and more, and now will be used to move homeless seniors and people with underlying health conditions out of shelters and out of harm’s way.
“They can get out of what are potentially unhealthy situations at the encampments, or wherever they’re living, and get to a place that’s better set up for the appropriate social distancing,” said Bruce Ives, CEO of the largest provider for unsheltered people in Silicon Valley.
Ives said that social distancing in shelters is a challenge. Santa Clara County Supervisor Cindy Chavez agreed.
“They not only don’t have access to running water and soap, they may be living in very close quarters with each other,” Chavez said.
Chavez said to help thin out shelters and limit infection, over 100 people will call the fairgrounds their temporary home. Starting next week, the county is moving 60 to 80 of the most vulnerable people who are already in shelters into a building. Fifteen more will move into trailers for isolation.
“Once someone’s been identified as having the virus or we suspect they have the virus and are homeless, being able to shelter them from other people [is important],” Chavez said.
This will also make room in the shelters for people living in encampments and other places, and to make sure everyone has the best opportunity for social distancing as the number of cases is expected to surge next week.