Nonprofit gives warning ‘tags’ to COVID-19 symptomatic homeless people

Coronavirus New Mexico

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (KRQE) – A local non-profit is helping warn first responders and others about COVID-19 cases in homeless camps. Christine Barber is handing out some of the usual care items to homeless people in Albuquerque’s international district.

“There’s cough drops in there, there’s Gatorade and a few other things,” said Barber while handing out care items. Barber is with the homeless outreach organization Street Safe New Mexico. She said since the pandemic continues to spread in our state, at least half the homeless she encounters daily say they have COVID-like symptoms.

“How are you guys feeling,” Barber asks a homeless camp. “Any headaches? Muscle aches?” Street Safe New Mexico is worried symptomatic or COVID positive homeless people will still have to move their tents or temporary camps because of city ordinances. So they created these pink warning tags to give to those experiencing symptoms.

“What we’re saying is you can put this with some duct tape, tape this on your tent and the cops might not move you since you guys are feeling sick,” Barber said to a group of homeless people. “Our hope is they will leave you alone and let you feel better.”

Barber said when homeless people get moved, they could end up spreading the virus and it makes it difficult for Street Safe to find that person who needs help. “Last week we had about 10 campers who had COVID symptoms who were almost positive had COVID and then the next day they’d be gone because they got moved along,” said Barber.

City of Albuquerque officials say they already have a plan in place for homeless people experiencing symptoms. “We have these isolation hotels for folks who have tested positive or have had an exposure and need to quarantine or have symptoms and are waiting for test results,” said CABQ Family and Community Services spokesperson, Lisa Huval.

Street Safe believes these pink tags will serve as a good warning for first responders and others. “It just tells them basically this is not official,” said Barber about the pink warning tags. “It will not protect you, but just in case you want to.” Along with the pink tags, the COVID-19 care packages also include information about testing and what to expect.

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