Contra Costa County and several of its cities are working to reduce the spread of COVID-19 in local homeless encampments by placing handwashing stations and portable toilets near them.
Four hand-washing stations and four portable toilets with attached hand-washing stations were placed at Martinez’s Waterfront Amphitheater on Tuesday, the first of several sanitation equipment deliveries planned in coming days.
The stations were ordered through the Contra Costa County Emergency Operations Center in support of local cities that requested the assistance, including Antioch, Richmond and Walnut Creek.
“We must work proactively with our homeless population to reduce the spread of COVID-19, and to save lives,” said Candace Andersen, chair of the Contra Costa County Board of Supervisors. “People who lack housing are particularly vulnerable. Without running water, it is very difficult to wash your hands and practice the hygiene needed to reduce your risk of infection.”
City governments in Antioch, Richmond and Walnut Creek are now determining where to place as many as 10 hand-washing or portable toilet stations each, based on locations frequented by residents in their communities who are experiencing homelessness.
“During this challenging time, we need to support each other. We have been working closely with all cities in Contra Costa to ensure they have what they need to meet the most pressing response needs at the local level,” said Supervisor Federal Glover, whose district includes Martinez.
Nearly 2,300 people need housing on any given night in Contra Costa, according to the most recent data available through the county’s annual homeless point-in-time count.
“Assisting people who need housing during this challenging time helps everyone,” Martinez City Councilmember Noralea Gipner said. “To flatten the curve and keep our healthcare system ready to respond, we need to reduce the risk of COVID-19 to the most vulnerable people in our community.”
CORE outreach teams from Contra Costa Health Services’ Division of Health, Housing and Homeless Services (H3) have been delivering sanitation supplies, such as hand sanitizer, to people living outdoors for several weeks to help improve sanitation at area homeless encampments.
H3 is also coordinating closely with county homeless service providers to identify clients who are at elevated risk due to age or health and place them in hotel rooms, and to temporarily transfer occupants of crowded shelters to hotels to better maintain physical distancing.
Through California’s Project Roomkey, H3 has secured 450 hotel rooms in the county for temporary use by homeless residents. As of Tuesday, no COVID-19 outbreaks have been reported at homeless shelters or service providers in Contra Costa County.