The situation remains dire for Turkey’s homeless population while authorities urge people to isolate themselves at home over coronavirus fears. The younger have a relatively lower risk but for the homeless aged 65 and above and those with chronic illnesses, the virus poses a major threat.
Alattin Arslan has been mostly homeless for the past 35 years and lives in Istanbul. He says he cannot take measures himself. “I don’t have a mask and I cannot afford it. I am trying to keep a distance from my homeless friends. Sometimes, I can afford to buy sanitizers but most shops are closed nowadays. I go to the mosques and wash my hands often with soap. The only thing I have as protection is fresh air,” he says. “I sleep on the street. Perhaps, people like me can be housed in abandoned, unused buildings, at least until it (the outbreak) is over.” Another homeless man who declined to give his name, says he has been homeless for the past six months and was trying to keep himself clean.
“There are many out on the street without protection. We sometimes go to the homeless shelters of the municipality but they are mostly full,” he says. The municipality occasionally shelters them in small hotels but the homeless are not allowed to stay in spacious sports halls as they did in the past years for the fear of infections.
Çorbada Tuzun Olsun, a charity for the homeless, recommends the government to adopt a “social isolation on the street” model for the homeless amid the outbreak. A statement by the charity says the homeless with symptoms should be delivered masks and separated from other homeless people. “The existing shelters for the homeless can be taken under quarantine, and the health of the rest of the homeless people can be protected, and a quarantine area can be established for the homeless who don’t stay in shelters and live in the streets. When these two steps are implemented, the disadvantaged homeless group is considered in the social crisis plan and social isolation can be managed in the whole society,” a report by the charity suggests.
“The individuals in the streets should be put in quarantine just like the people who have returned from abroad and should be considered as potential patients. The ones who have been put in quarantine should be categorized and should be divided into small groups according to the risk factors they are in. Those small groups should not only be isolated but also be categorized according to the risk factors inside them and should be included in the social isolation,” it also says.