Best practices to help stop the spread of COVID-19 in Skid Row from LA CAN


On March 19th, 2020, amid the global coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti issued a ‘Safer at Home’ Emergency Order calling on Angelenos to stay in their residences and limit all activities outside their homes beyond what was necessary for essential taskstwo significant challenges for people experiencing houselessness. For the Skid Row community, which comprises nearly 5,000 unhoused people (13% of the city’s houseless population) residing in a 50 square block area of downtown Los Angeles, one wonders just how ‘tone-deaf’ the Emergency Order could be.  For black and brown houseless neighbors in all communities across Los Angeles, the feeling of being ignored and not valued is all too familiar and chilling. 

Located in the heart of Skid Row, home to the largest population of unhoused people in the country, LA CAN (Los Angeles Community Action Network) has been on the frontlines of helping to organize and build power for houseless and housed residents in historic battles for social, housing and food justice for more than 20 years. With the pandemic, we are witnessing, in real-time, how deep the ripple effects are when civic leaders employ the tools borne from systems put in place over the years to devalue and carve out groups of people and abandon them. The potentially devastating impact of residents being forced to continuously make life-or-death decisions about how, what, when and where they would survive continues to not be a meaningful enough consideration for lawmakers.

LA CAN presents its 10 Point Plan For Community Survival as a set of best practices they have successfully deployed throughout the COVID-19 pandemic.  The aim is to share these with other communities working hard to survive in times of prolonged uncertainty.

  1. Ensure protection of residents, staff and community by providing readily available and accessible personal protective equipment, hygiene products and clean public and shared living spaces and facilities. 

  2. Stop ‘Super Spreader’ events before they happen.

  3. Our government has a Duty of Care to protect the health and well-being of Skid Row residents. 

4. When client engagement is expected, ensure at least 6ft of distance between individuals waiting in lines. 

5. Managers of high-traffic food distribution services (e.g., food pantries) should continually assess how to adapt or modify their modes of food distribution based on current levels of spread in each community they serve. 

6. Prioritize delivery of food items in ways that minimize in-person interactions. 


7. Make necessary changes to require all staff and volunteers to wash their hands before, after, and frequently during shifts and to wear masks — for those serving food, require gloves.  

8. Review and ‘course-correct’ approach to scheduling client times onsite to limit the number of people at any given time and to prevent crowds.


9. For day-to-day encounters going forward, modify the layout, as needed, to facilitate social distancing between staff, volunteers, and clients, which should be accompanied by a clearly stated plan for displaced staff and/or clients.

10. City, county and state officials should be consistent with stay-at-home and/or community engagement orders and directives.

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