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Lawmakers concerned with how coronavirus spread will impact homeless population

Belongings of the homeless crowd a downtown Los Angeles sidewalk in Skid Row on May 30, 2019. - The city of Los Angeles on May 29 agreed to allow homeless people on Skid Row to keep their property and not have it seized, providing the items are not bulky or hazardous. (Photo by Frederic J. BROWN / AFP) (Photo credit should read FREDERIC J. BROWN/AFP/Getty Images)

WASHINGTON – Congress is urging the public to stay in your homes but what if you don’t have a home?

Lawmakers from states like California with large homeless populations are concerned about how the virus could impact people living on the streets.

Self-quarantine and social distancing are nearly impossible for the homeless.

Lawmakers say that makes the spread of the coronavirus more likely.

“Too many lives are on the line. We don’t have time to move slow,” Representative Eric Swalwell, D-California, said.

Congressman Eric Swalwell says a major outbreak in California’s homeless populations– will likely spread into the surrounding city and suburbs.

“In the house bill we passed, we increased Medicaid dollars which is essential for California because of the homeless,” Swalwell said.

Swalwell and other representatives from California have been pushing the Trump administration to start building temporary hospitals and shelters to help address the unique challenges facing the homeless.

“Temporary shelters, isolation unit for those who need to be quarantined. treatment areas for those who are sick,” Representative Raul Ruiz, D-California, said.

Congressman Raul Ruiz says the federal government will need to work with individual states to quarantine homeless populations.

He says not doing so is an existential threat to major California cities.

Ruiz says he urged Vice President Mike Pence to address this weeks ago.

“The administration currently has the authority to mobilize FEMA resources, tent hospitals, tent shelters,” Ruiz said.

Wednesday afternoon President Trump said FEMA is now playing an enhanced role in mitigating the virus’ spread but it’s still unclear if any of those emergency resources will be directed specifically toward the homeless.

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