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COVID-19 outbreak reported at Salinas’ only homeless shelter for men

By Felix Cortez

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    SALINAS, California (KSBW) — A COVID-19 outbreak at the Victory Mission, Salinas’ only homeless shelter for men, has forced the shelter to close its doors to new clients. James Joseph is one of those men trying to get a bed there this week.

“Everybody really didn’t know where to go so they started giving us sleeping bags and we just started finding places to go to sleep. Some of us went down South Main, some of us stayed down in Chinatown,” Joseph said.

As of Wednesday, six of the 19 clients staying at the shelter had tested positive for COVID-19; no employees are positive.

But the outbreak forced the shelter to go into self-quarantine. No new clients are being accepted in and current clients are allowed to leave only for work or important appointments.

“We have sanitizing containers all over the building almost every single room and we require men to wash their hands constantly and when they’re ever in contact with anyone else supposed to wear masks, so somehow it got in we don’t know how but we’re not going to allow anything else to get in,” said Karen Cusson, executive director of Victory Mission.

But the shelter plays a key role in the Chinatown homeless community providing beds, meals and showers for men. Homeless men seeking shelter there now have no other place to go. That’s because city leaders say all homeless shelters are full in large part because capacity has been scaled back at the shelters due to COVID-19.

“I just want some help. I don’t need the money, I just need a roof over my head and warmth and showing them I’m just trying to be a better person,” Joseph said.

Cusson said the shelter continues to practice healthy protocols, along with testing and cleaning on a regular basis.

Those testing positive are not displaying any major symptoms and they are being quarantined from other clients. Nobody has been hospitalized as a result of the outbreak.

But the shelter won’t reopen until no one tests positive for COVID-19.

“We’re shut down until we can do our best to guarantee safety for the men coming in so we assume we will be shut down for at least 14 days,” Cusson said.

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