‘It’s heartbreaking’: Homeless during pandemic left out in the cold — figuratively and literally

Advocates urging governments to provide more shelters, amenities for homeless.

In an unprecedented move, Doctors Without Borders, which usually operates in developing countries, is building a 400-bed facility for the homeless who test positive for COVID-19. It will be run by local health-care workers in Toronto.

“It’s an important effort and one that is really vital, but is also, I think, a sobering reminder of the potential magnitude of the problem that we would be facing if there’s extensive spread of COVID-19,” said Stephen Hwang, a staff physician at St. Michael’s Hospital in Toronto, and director of MAP Centre for Urban Health Solutions.

Hwang understands first-hand the vulnerability the homeless population faces. On top of his two roles, he runs a clinic at Seaton House, a Toronto men’s shelter. But because he works in the hospital and wants to mitigate the risk to those using Seaton House, he’s not going to the shelter.

He’s not just concerned about the homeless. He also worries about the safety of staff working in shelters.

“They are very concerned about the potential for an outbreak in their shelter and getting it themselves,” Hwang said.

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