Miami-Dade County Homeless Trust Expands COVID-19 Testing of Homeless Persons to Coincide with Increased Availability of Swab Test Kits
Food and Face-Coverings Drives Continue FIU Launches Telemedicine Support for Isolated/Quarantined Homeless Households
May 5, 2020 – The Miami-Dade County Homeless Trust is scaling up mobile testing for COVID-19 as the availability of swab test kits increases. Starting this week, a third mobile testing team will be operational. The two existing teams are focused largely on unsheltered populations and able to canvas the entire geographic area of Miami-Dade County. The new third testing team will focus on sheltered populations, including testing and retesting of persons at existing emergency shelters and at three newly established isolation and quarantine facilities dedicated to serving homeless persons.
Homeless Trust supported mobile-testing first began on April 13, 2020 utilizing the Trust-funded specialized outreach, The Lazarus Project, which engages, assesses and treats Miami-Dade’s most isolated and service resistant unsheltered homeless persons. Homeless outreach workers partner with medical professionals to diagnose, draft a treatment plan, administer medication and monitor severely mentally ill individuals on the streets with the goal of placing them in permanent housing. With the pandemic, COVID-19 testing has become part of their daily routine. The Trust has also partnered with Healthcare for the Homeless 330(h) grantee Camillus Health Concern (CHC) to increase mobile testing for unsheltered households, providing CHC greater access to test kits, and lending the expertise of seasoned homeless outreach personnel as they engage and offer testing on the streets.
Priority populations include persons 65+ and other persons at risk of severe illness as defined by the CDC. Eighteen homeless persons have been confirmed positive by the Homeless Trust. Homeless Trust supported testing teams estimate that 30-50% of unsheltered households refused the test.
“A third mobile testing unit comes at a critical point in time,” said Trust Chairman Ronald L. Book. “With the increased availability of test kits, as we planned, we can go deeper and continue to expand our testing for our already vulnerable population. We’ve already tested every willing sheltered and unsheltered senior 65+ in our Continuum. Our hope is that frequent and ongoing testing will help us continue to mitigate a widespread COVID-19 outbreak among the 8,000-plus individuals in the Continuum of Care – those living unsheltered and sheltered in emergency, transitional and permanent housing.
Mr. Book continued, “The plan we have in place could only happen thanks to the support of Governor Ron DeSantis and Florida Surgeon General Dr. Scott A. Rivkees, the Florida Department of Health Director Pauline Rolle, as well as Emergency Management Director Jared Moskowitz who have been responsive to our requests on a state level; and locally, our deepest gratitude to Mayor Carlos Gimenez, Emergency Management Director Frank Rollason, and Administrator of the Florida Department of Health Lillian Rivera, who have fought for our needs and encouraged us in all our efforts. Never has a united front mattered more as we work tirelessly with our entire team to save the lives of the most vulnerable among us.”
The following is a timeline of efforts to mitigate COVID-19 through the use of testing and utilizing hotels:
- First isolation occurred on March 13, using existing hotel/motel inventory through City of Miami.
- First dedicated isolation/quarantine site established on March 21, which included 15 rooms/19 beds;
- Second dedicated isolation/quarantine site established on April 1 with 67 rooms and 134 beds. Testing and outplacement of seniors 65+ also began on this date with help from City of Miami Homebound Program;
- Third dedicated isolation/quarantine site established on April 10, with 200 rooms and 354 beds. On this same day, the first swab tests (oral and nasal) were received from the Department of Health.
- On April 13, deployed mobile unsheltered testing using the Lazarus Project team.
- Second dedicated homeless testing team deployed on April 16; staffed by Camillus Health Concern.
- On April 24, the Trust requested from the County Emergency Operations Center 3,500 additional tests and staffing for mobile testing teams.
- May 5, Trust begins allowing outreach teams to place all unsheltered willing persons unable to secure a traditional emergency shelter bed using existing hotel capacity.
The Homeless Trust has also initiated several community efforts engaging volunteer groups to ensure the basic needs of sheltered and unsheltered persons are met.
- Masks for Miami-Dade’s Homeless has collected hundreds of face coverings that have been distributed to shelters and by outreach teams to street homeless. Drop-off receptacles are located at five Miami-Dade County Library locations.
- United Way of Miami-Dade is helping to meet the need for food and hygiene items through their Care Package Campaign running Wednesday, May 6 and May 13 from 9 – 1 PM at United Way, 3250 SW 3rd Avenue, Miami.
Coordination with numerous other volunteer organizations has helped to facilitate donations of food, water, hygiene and safety supplies to homeless households. A partnership has also been established with Florida International University to conduct tele-medicine checks on households in isolation or quarantine.