Jersey City supports homeless population amid pandemic

Shower service reopened, hygiene kits supplied, and temporary housing sought

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Kits are being handed out to the homeless. They include a toothbrush, toothpaste, disposable towel, hand sanitizer, soap and more. Photo by Jen Brown.
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Mayor Steven Fulop and local officials announced steps the city is taking to protect the homeless from COVID-19. Photo by Jen Brown
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Kits are being handed out to the homeless. They include a toothbrush, toothpaste, disposable towel, hand sanitizer, soap and more. Photo by Jen Brown.
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Mayor Steven Fulop and local officials announced steps the city is taking to protect the homeless from COVID-19. Photo by Jen Brown

In an effort to provide for the homeless during the coronavirus pandemic, Mayor Steven Fulop and local health officials announced that they’re reopening the free public showers in Journal Square, supplying meals and personal hygiene kits, and assisting the county to secure temporary housing for the homeless to self-quarantine.

“We have witnessed how COVID-19 has had a devastating impact around the world on all of us, but when you think of those who have the least in society, they are even more vulnerable during this crisis,” Fulop said. “We all are pulling together to normalize our lives in this unprecedented challenge of our times, but the only way we will succeed is if we look out for those who need help the most, and leave no one behind.”

The city’s Health and Human Services (HHS) Department is working with Hudson County officials to secure three local hotels to provide temporary housing for chronic homeless people in Jersey City which will help them self-quarantine, and also for those who test positive for the deadly COVID-19 virus to self-isolate.

One homeless person has already tested positive for COVID-19, according to Director of HHS Stacey Flanagan.

As personal hygiene is a large factor in reducing the risk of spreading COVID-19, the city also expanded its popular shower service for the homeless in Journal Square which launched in November of last year.

The showers are now reopened from 7 to 10 a.m., Monday through Friday. Each user receives a personal hygiene kit.

The kits include a toothbrush, toothpaste, hand sanitizer, moist towelettes, disposable towels, comb, soap, and toilet paper. They also come with a ready-to-eat meal.

“We’ve been working with Hudson County officials to come up with a comprehensive plan, providing meals ready to eat (MRE’s), hygiene kits and establishing isolation shelters where the homeless can recover if they get sick,” Flanagan said.

“We are also setting up for nurses to do wellness checks on them as well,” she said. “Additionally, and it’s very important, that the distribution of the personal hygiene kits continues because it will help reduce the risk for these individuals, and those they come in contact with in our shelters.”

The showering program began six months ago as a single trailer that allowed for privacy three days a week for the homeless to take showers where a majority of them congregate, in Journal Square.

Now, a second trailer has been added, and public showers are being provided five days a week with a second site to be determined.

HHS staff working at the bath trailers are following strict CDC guidelines, using gloves and all necessary garments and equipment to protect them from exposure to COVID-19.

The staff is trained to OSHA standards. Each shower is fully and safely cleaned and disinfected after each use.

Anyone who believes they have been infected with the virus or have come into contact with someone infected is urged to contact their health care provider and can receive further guidance through Jersey City’s hotline: 201 547-5208.

All city offices remain open and are working on an appointment-only system.

For updates on this and other stories check www.hudsonreporter.com and follow us on Twitter @hudson_reporter. Marilyn Baer can be reached at Marilynb@hudsonreporter.com.