MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — During this outbreak, a lot of people have been asking WCCO about who is looking after Minnesota’s homeless population. Work is being done to ensure they stay safe, but there’s more left to do.

Men and women who have no place to call home are wondering how they protect themselves from COVID-19.

“It’s a pretty big scare here right now, because like I said, a lot of these guys are in and out and we don’t know where these guys are going,” Champaigne Davis said. “They come in, they’re coughing, they don’t cover their mouths. It’s kind of a scary thing.”

Davis is homeless but stays at Higher Ground in Minneapolis when he can. Although he is thankful for shelter, he is worried being in a confined space with dozens of other homeless men could increase his chances of being infected.

The only time they are providing people with mask is if they have a persistent cough you have to have some type or sign of being sick or ill,” Davis said.

Hennepin County is working to take people out of shelters who are sick.

“We’ve been looking at the population of people who are age 60 and above, folks who have underlying health conditions, who are in our homeless shelters, getting them out of the congested setting and into an independent setting,” David Hewitt, director of human services and public health with Hennepin County, said.

On Tuesday, the county board authorized $3 million to purchase alternative accommodation options. Hewitt says the county’s homeless team is working with shelter staff and residents on how to keep the area clean. But what about the people who fall thru the cracks?

“They walk around, they ride the trains, the buses, they congregate, they meet wherever they can meet right now,” Davis said.

Many run to Sharing & Caring hands, people in distress who don’t have the luxury of social distancing. They come for free meals and social services, but director Mary Jo Copeland says it’s overwhelming.

Many bar tenders and waitresses laid off because of COVID-19 are there seeking help. With churches closing their doors, food donations and volunteers are not arriving at her doorstep. It’s a crisis Copeland says needs all of our attention and efforts to make sure the most vulnerable have a chance at staying COVID-19 free.

Sharing and Caring Hands is a private shelter that relies on donations and volunteers to operate. They need both to deal with the number of people looking for help right now.

Reg Chapman