Chicago's A Safe Haven offers isolation space for homeless residents with COVID-19 symptoms

CHICAGO (WLS) -- A shelter on Chicago's West Side is helping homeless residents quarantine during Illinois' "stay-at-home" order.

Hose Smith was the first patient to check into the new isolation space at A Safe Haven.

"They did a test on me and said I was positive for coronavirus," Smith said.

He believes he caught the virus at the West Side homeless shelter, where he was staying.

After a week at the hospital, he's now staying at the isolation space for the next 14 days.

Neli Vazquez Rowland opened the isolation area Monday, in partnership with the city and Rush University Medical Center.

"It truly is going to save lives short term and long term," said Vazquez Rowland.

Vazquez Rowland said the vulnerable Chicago homeless population is like a time bomb for the spread of COVID-19.

Many have compromised immune systems and respiratory problems, as well as limited access to soap and water.

A Safe Haven opened up 100 beds to isolate and treat patients. They're also providing medical care, showers and nutritious meals.

"Let's get them healthy, keep them safe, and keep them from spreading it," Vazquez Rowland said.

The facility also has residents who are in quarantine with COVID-19 symptoms.

Most isolation patients at the facility, like Hosea Smith, are on the road to recovery.

"Despite the coughing and sneezing, I feel better, but I still have dizzy spells," said Smith.

The facility has space for 100 patients, including adults and even homeless families with children.

"They can spread the disease faster than any other population and once that happens, it's going to be very hard to contain," said Vazquez Rowland.

Once patients are able to leave the isolation room, A Safe Haven is hoping to help them into a transitional program to keep them from returning to the streets.
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