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Santa Clara County Investing $13M In Helping Low-Income Families, Homeless Quarantine From COVID-19

SAN JOSE (KPIX 5) – Santa Clara County is investing more than $13 million in a program to house people who are in quarantine or isolation due to possible infection with the coronavirus.

The Santa Clara County Board of Supervisors unanimously approved a program Tuesday that provides up to $5,000 in financial support and lodging for quarantining.

The initiative, in partnership with 15 cities, will allocate more than $13 million, with more than half allotted for financial and rental assistance.

"The point of having the isolation and quarantine services available to particularly to address homes that are overcrowded because what we want to do is break the chain of transmission as quickly as possible," said Santa Clara County Board of Supervisors President Cindy Chavez.

Chavez said the program will focus on the homeless and low-income families for whom social distance, quarantine and isolation might be virtually impossible.

The program has three main components to encourage residents to get tested and make it easier for those who need to quarantine: additional motel and hotel rooms, financial and rental support and at-home support like meal delivery programs.

Nearly 10% of county residents would require some assistance if they or a family member tested positive and 5% would need a place to quarantine either because they are unhoused, live in a crowded household or live with an at-risk person, according to a county study.

"Here is our big message -- If you need to isolate, if you need to quarantine, there are support services for you," Chavez said. "We want everyone to know that if you take a test ... the county and the cities are here to help."

"Everybody is so close together. Everybody interacts. It's really hard to tell if somebody is sick with the common cold or the COVID," says Gabriel Cobian who lives in a sprawling homeless encampment near Roosevelt Park on the edges of downtown San Jose.

Cobian said he's tested negative for the coronavirus three times. But he says he fears that a single infection would spread like wildfire through the cramped, dirty encampment where basic hygiene is a challenge.

"Trying to practice social distancing and being clean under these conditions is real hard," he told KPIX 5.

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Since the start of the outbreak, the county has provided temporary housing to roughly 500 people while they quarantined either after testing positive or being exposed to someone who had.

"My short answer is it's overdue. Again, make it a priority. I don't know why the unhoused aren't a priority in this pandemic. They should be," says Pastor Scott Wagers, a homeless advocate who systematic testing of the homeless should have been part of the county's protocol from the outset.

Chavez would not disclose which hotels or motels in which people were being quarantined. But she said the program is administered by trained staff from a local non-profit. Additionally, she said the hotels and motels used for the program are not open to the general public.

Participating cities promised to contribute $600,000 each and help the county identify vulnerable populations and available spaces for individuals to quarantine.

Chavez said the remaining cities not participating already have support programs in place, however all county residents are eligible for county support, regardless of a city's partnership.

There is a plethora of services available ranging from financial support to care services for elderly, young or at-risk family members.

© Copyright 2020 CBS Broadcasting Inc. and Bay City News Service. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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