New street medicine team sets out to screen Spokane’s homeless for COVID-19

SPOKANE, Wash. — We have all been told to stay home and stay healthy under a state order, but what do you do when you don’t have a place to call home?

That’s the reality for 1,300 people in Spokane right now, living in shelters or setting up camps, where the risk of infection is already high. That risk has been run up even more now that COVID-19 has hit Spokane County. That’s where Spokane’s new street medicine team comes in.

The team, made up of members from SNAP, CHAS, the Spokane Regional Health District, the Washington State University Elson S. Floyd College of Medicine, the Spokane Alliance and Jewel’s Helping Hands, among others, is setting out to screen homeless people wherever they may be.

“[The goal is] to identify people that might have coronavirus, get them tested and then either get them to the facility out at the fairgrounds or get them to shelter in place,” says Dr. Luis Manriquez with the WSU Elson S. Floyd College of Medicine. “It’s really hard to stay home and stay safe if you don’t have a home.”

Their care will extend beyond COVID-19 screening — the team is equipped to confront any other health challenges Spokane’s homeless may face, from blisters to Hepatitis A.

“They also have compromised immune systems anyway. Being out in the elements is very difficult for our houseless folks,” says Amy Johnson with SNAP Homeless Services. “They’re just glad we’re showing up and checking on them.”