Salvation Army calls for special quarantine facilities for the homeless

Illustrative photo: Russ Allison Loar, Flickr, CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

The Czech branch of the Salvation Army has called for the establishment of special quarantine facilities for the homeless in all regions of the Czech Republic. Amidst a surge in the number of new cases of Covid-19 in the country, ordinary shelters for the homeless could easily become hotspots for an uncontrolled spread of the disease. 

During the first wave of the coronavirus epidemic in the Czech Republic, twice as many homeless people as usual turned for assistance to the Salvation Army offices around the Czech Republic and its social workers provided help to around 3,000 to 5,000 citizens without a home.

Social workers are warning that the number of homeless people is likely to increase in the next few months as a result of the ongoing Covid-19 crisis. František Krupa is the national director of the Salvation Army in the Czech Republic:

František Krupa,  photo: Kristýna Maková

“According to the latest survey of the Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs, which was carried out in 2018, there are some 24,000 homeless people in the Czech Republic.

“However, our data suggest that there are between 30,000 and 70, 000 of them, depending on whether you include only people who live on the streets, or also those in asylum houses and other non-standard living arrangements.”

The Salvation Army warns that the homeless population could be particularly hard hit by the second wave of the Covid-19 pandemic. The Czech homeless population has been gradually aging and now has between 15 to 20 percent of seniors, who run a higher risk of contracting the disease.

Another factor increasing the risk of Covid-19 infection among the homeless is that a majority of them are not registered with a GP and they are hard to track by hygiene officials, since they have no stable address or telephone number.

František Krupa also points out that they tend to mistrust official authorities. He says the only solution to the problem is to have enough social workers working directly in the streets:

Photo: archive of Radio Prague

“The only sophisticated tool is high-quality terrain and social services. Social workers know where to look for the homeless people; they have established a personal contact with them and they know how to track them down. The homeless trust them and cooperate with them. But there are still towns and cities which still lack such services.”

In view of the worsening coronavirus situation in the country and the upcoming cold winter months, Mr. Krupa says it is absolutely essential to provide special quarantine facilities for the homeless:

“Normal people who are sick stay at home, but the homeless have nowhere to go. If they stay in a regular shelter, they can spread the virus uncontrollably.

“In this situation, tents are not a solution. I think that in the 21st century, in Central Europe, people who are sick should not end up in a tent.”