With limited access to hygiene products and running water, Boston’s homeless population is especially vulnerable to contracting coronavirus — and the reality of income- and social-based health disparities can make those who do get it more at-risk for complications.
“Many of our guests have pre-existing medical conditions, [and] they’re older, and so they’re highly vulnerable to the most devastating form of this virus," explained Lyndia Downie, president and executive director of Pine Street Inn in an interview Thursday night with Jim Braude on Greater Boston.
"It’s a group that’s going to be highly at risk and a group that doesn’t have the ability to self-quarantine the way other people do,” she said. “And that is going to put other people at risk. So, it behooves all of us to pay attention to this and do a good job with it, so that we limit transmission across the state.”
The issue, she says, will be one of the largest challenges Massachusetts will face during the pandemic.
The City of Boston is currently in the process of setting up temporary tents to screen, treat and quarantine homeless people who may come in to contact with the virus.
Additionally, Downie said, the Pine Street Inn will directly support members of the population who have a substance use disorder and may need to be quarantined.
“Whatever we can do, whether it’s offering medicated assisted treatment … Boston Medical Center has offered to help with that," Downie said. "We’re going to do our best to help people who need a drink, frankly, so we can keep them quarantined. We’re trying to think of everything we can to make sure they can stay in one of the tents."