Hepatitis A Outbreak Spurring Cities to New Actions on Homelessness

A series of articles from around the Internet in recent weeks highlights the need for more services and support for the homeless. The location of this story is set in California, but all communities should heed these warnings.
December 8, 2017, 10am PST | James Brasuell | @CasualBrasuell
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Adam Rogers describes the large Hepatitis A outbreak in California (mostly in San Diego but spreading to Los Angeles and Santa Cruz as well) in context of larger concerns about the future of public health if social policy doesn't address homelessness.

"Homeless people present a particular challenge for health—but for reasons as much political as medical. When the urban infrastructure shows signs of weakness, as it has with these hep A outbreaks, it’s not just a medical tragedy. It’s a signal of a failure yet to come," writes Rogers.

Rogers undertakes a detailed exploration of the Hepatitis A outbreak in San Diego, and traces the lessons public health officials have been learning as they've been battling the outbreak in 2017.

Another article by Emily Moon examines the city of San Diego's efforts to leverage the Hepatitis A outbreak to develop more housing for the city's homeless population (9,000 people, according to the figure cited in the article). Since the outbreak, the city created the city's first legal homeless camp (as reported by Gary Warth in October), but advocates and city officials are pushing for more housing. 

"In San Diego, city council members and shelter owners alike subscribe to the tenets of Housing First [pdf], a Housing and Urban Development-sanctioned approach started under George W. Bush that prioritizes permanent supportive housing over treatment for health issues like addiction," writes Moon.

Finally, a local report by Gale Holland breaks the news of the first new public toilets on skid row in Los Angeles in more than a decade. "The action represents a new consensus among many downtown interests about how to provide the essential service on skid row," writes Holland. "The restrooms also are expected to help in the fight against a statewide hepatitis A outbreak spread by poor hygiene in homeless camps that has killed more than a dozen people in San Diego." As reported by Holland, not everyone in attendance at the press conference announcing the new toilets were pleased with the city's actions leading up to the event. 

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Published on Friday, December 8, 2017 in Wired
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