Los Angeles County Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas urged county leaders to take appropriate steps to support the hundreds of men and women – our “army for good” – who are on the front lines of protecting homeless and formerly homeless people from the COVID-19 pandemic.
Building on a letter addressed to California Governor Gavin Newsom earlier this week, Ridley-Thomas conveyed the urgent need to bring vulnerable, elderly and medically frail seniors inside, emphasizing that the acute COVID-19 crisis now threatens to compound the chronic crisis of homelessness.
“As we take significant precautions to protect the public, we must also be focused on supporting the brave and dedicated women and men on the front lines who may be risking their own health, and the well-being of their families, while providing critical and essential services to the most vulnerable in our communities, namely the homeless,” Ridley-Thomas said in a letter to county Chief Executive Officer Sachi Hamai and Chief Operating Officer Fesia Davenport.
“When we started this work in 2016, there were 50 outreach workers on Skid Row,” Ridley-Thomas said. “Now, this ‘army for good’ includes about 1,000 outreach workers tending to vulnerable homeless individuals on the street, urging them to practice good hygiene as well as many more who are caring for formerly homeless individuals within a variety of shelter settings.”
Ridley-Thomas urged the County leadership to consider the following measures to ensure this workforce is fully supported as they carry out their essential tasks:
“We must ensure that as we operate within the framework of a disaster response, our front line workers, who are working on behalf of the County with vulnerable homeless or formerly homeless populations, receive premium pay consistent with the vital nature of their work,” he said.
“We should facilitate, to the best of our availability, that this workforce has the equipment and adequate supplies that it needs including protective masks, gloves, and other related items so that their health is protected to the extent feasible. Moreover, adequate security should be placed in sensitive settings as deemed necessary,” Ridley-Thomas said.
“We understand that this workforce has personal obligations for child and senior care. To the extent feasible, the county should aid those who need to work, to allow them to continue to do so,” he said. “Now is the time to demonstrate our support for these modern-day heroes on whose services we daily rely.”