Mobile testing now available for Chittenden County homeless

Published: Apr. 13, 2020 at 3:39 PM EDT
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There are anywhere between 350 to 450 people in Chittenden County who are homeless, and we know at least one of them has tested positive for coronavirus. So what is being done to find out who else in that community has the virus?

Harbor Place in Shelburne houses homeless who have symptoms of COVID-19 but have not yet been tested. Now, thanks to the collaboration of multiple groups, a coronavirus mobile testing van is making stops here to test some of the most vulnerable.

With drive-thru testing sites set up for people to get tested for coronavirus, what about people who don't have a car?

"We knew that we needed to come up with a solution to people who needed to get tested for coronavirus who are eather homeless or don't have vehicles of their own," said Heather Stein with Community Health Centers of Burlington.

So they did. The Champlain Housing Trust donated the van, the health department is donating equipment, and the health centers are doing the testing.

Right now, free testing is available in the Burlington area and to those who need it. "Reducing barriers to care is a big part of what CHCB does," Stein said.

A medical referral is still required to get tested, just like everywhere else in Vermont. But someone who can order a test is also one of the organization's services.

"There are people who don't have a medical provider, and if that's the case then, we are still able to do that order for them," Stein said.

"The difference for the homeless is that many of them are much more vulnerable" said Rita Markley with the Committee on Temporary Shelter.

She says that there is a concern because the homeless tend to live and congregate in groups, promoting the spread of COVID-19. They are also at increased risk of complications. "If you have been living homless and in unstable settings for a long time, that plays an enormous toll on your body," Markley said. "That's why it's so wonderful and important that we now have on-site testing."

On-site and on-the-go for people who have a hard time getting around.

"We have seen positive tests throughout the community and that includes the homless population," Stein said.

COTS says they are working hard with area motels to find appropriate shelter for the homeless population during the crisis.

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