Californians experiencing homelessness are being forced to choose between breathing unhealthy air, and potentially exposing themselves to COVID-19.
As more than 500 fires engulf California, including the second- and third-largest fires in the state’s history, unhoused people have nowhere safe to go. Outside, prolonged exposure to smoke increases the risk for respiratory problems, while shelters increase the risk of exposure to COVID-19, according to HuffPost. People experiencing homelessness also face acute danger from the fires themselves.
“Remember there are people who are unsheltered, many of them sheltering in places most susceptible to these wildfires,” Colleen Berumen, who runs a small shelter in Vacaville, which was forced to evacuate because of the fires, told HuffPost. “I had people pounding on my front door. Who’s pounding on their front door under the bridge? They could be in a deep sleep and not even know what’s going on and the fire could rush right over them. Don’t forget them.”