A homeless man walks along a street lined with trash across the street from LAPD Central Community Police Station in downtown Los Angeles on Thursday, May 30, 2019. The union that represents the LAPD is demanding a cleanup of homeless encampments in the city after one detective who works downtown was diagnosed with typhoid fever and two others are showing similar symptoms. (AP Photo/Richard Vogel)
Over the past year numerous people who work with the homeless populations in California have predicted that at some point a highly contagious and dangerous disease would sweep through the state’s homeless encampments, killing possibly thousands. If such an event occurred the damage wouldn’t be limited to the unhoused population; since many Californians work far from the cities in which they work, any pathogen could easily and quickly spread throughout the state. Of course, people like Dr. Drew Pinsky and Rev. Andy Bales, who were sounding the alarm, predicted that a disease like typhus or bubonic plague would be the culprit.
But now the Wuhan flu is showing up in the state’s homeless encampments – it was announced Tuesday that a homeless man in the San Francisco Bay Area was the state’s latest coronavirus-related death – and basically s**t is getting real. Really fast.
Cities and counties throughout the state have varying levels of shelter-in-place orders. In San Francisco, all residents (except the unhoused) are subject to the order. In Ventura County, all people 75 and older or people 70 and older who are immunocompromised have been ordered to shelter in place. In all, 9 million Californians have been ordered to shelter in place, again, except for the homeless.
Governor Gavin Newsom issued an executive order last week allowing the state to commandeer hotels and other buildings so they can isolate and quarantine homeless people who’ve tested positive for coronavirus and left open the possibility of forcibly removing them from the streets using emergency powers. What he didn’t address was how the state was going to force people who will actively resist such an “offer” and who have underlying mental health conditions that could cause them to be violent or otherwise put healthcare workers and law enforcement officers at risk.
Such as this woman, who was running down the streets of downtown Los Angeles Wednesday morning, buck naked, with a dead rat in her mouth. She was caught on video (viewer discretion advised):
⚠️ GRAPHIC FOOTAGE ⚠️ As the normal citizens of Los Angeles alter their daily lives to battle #corona #covid19 we still have people on the street running around naked with a dead rat in their mouth. #losangeles pic.twitter.com/9vf7FlYVaj
— STREET PEOPLE OF LOS ANGELES (@streetpeopleLA) March 17, 2020
Fox Los Angeles investigative reporter Bill Melguin, who’s one of the best local reporters covering the homeless and mental health crisis (along with the Los Angeles Times’ Steve Lopez), retweeted the video, saying:
The mental health crisis on LA’s streets continues to spiral out of control. Disturbing video below of a naked woman jogging through traffic in downtown LA with a dead rat in her mouth. At this point, nothing shocks me here anymore. We have big problems to address after the virus.
Melguin should know. In December 2019 he went undercover with an LA County Department of Mental Health team on skid row as they attempted to get services for the 19 most severe cases of mental health in the homeless community. (His report, linked in this tweet, should be required viewing for anyone who even comments on what’s happening in Los Angeles.)