Outreach teams hit the streets to help Salt Lake County’s homeless during the COVID-19 pandemic

Community Over Crisis

SALT LAKE CITY (ABC4 News) – The state directive is to “stay safe, stay home” but that’s not an option for people experiencing homelessness. Now in an example of community over crisis, Salt Lake County outreach teams are seeking out those individuals to help them remain healthy during this outbreak.

Staying home during the pandemic is not an option for Rob Ward.

“I lost my house, my car, my wife,” Ward said Wednesday. “So the streets is all I got right now.”
Katherine Fife is Salt Lake County’s  Director of Programs.

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“We want everybody to stay safe and stay home,” Fife said. “But for some people the streets are their home.”

Ward, who says he’s tested negative for the coronavirus that causes COVID-19, spends his days in the area around Fairmont Park and his nights at the Sugar House Shelter.

“I wear a mask. People are coughing all night long. I try to stay away from it,” Ward said. “I heard people are dying over it and that really sucks but right now I’m clean. My immune system is absolutely amazing.”

Salt Lake County and Volunteers of America Utah are dispatching six three-person teams to check on people like Ward, directing them to healthcare if they have symptoms and ensuring that they have food, water, clothes and hygiene kits. Shawn Spalding is a homeless outreach coordinator on one of those teams.

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“There’s a lot of homeless people right now, unsheltered people, that are scared,” Spalding said. “They’re just like the rest of us. They have needs and wants and we’re there to help them to be happy and stay healthy.”

“We all need help,” Ward said. “A lot of us have lost a lot of things but we’re all good people. We’re all good people. We’re just down on our luck.”

If you see any inspiring acts of community during this crisis we hope you’ll reach out to us because we’d love to share the story. Just email us at news@abc4.com

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