Homeless Idahoans can now be tested for COVID-19 at Interfaith Sanctuary -- with fast results

One Idaho medical clinic is stepping in to help.
Posted at 10:19 PM, Mar 30, 2020
and last updated 2020-03-31 02:10:46-04

BOISE, Idaho — Unsheltered people are at high risk for contracting the Coronavirus and for unknowingly spreading it. That's why Boise's homeless shelter leaders are working together to prevent the spread of COVID-19 -- starting with a new service that aims to improve transparency.

People experiencing homelessness and symptoms of a dry cough, fever, and shortness of breath are currently being quarantined at Boise Rescue Mission, and most of them remain in the dark on whether they even have the virus. But if you take a quick jaunt around the corner, you’ll now find that at Interfaith Sanctuary, testing is being administered to homeless Idahoans with symptoms.

Monday through Friday, 4:30 to 7 p.m., homeless Idahoans will have access to COVID-19 testing on-site at Interfaith Sanctuary.

“COVID-19 is like the invisible man. You have no idea if it’s in the room or not," said Jodi Peterson-Stigers, executive director, Interfaith Sanctuary. "Once you’re able to identify who is COVID-19 positive, and move them to a more secure location and be cared for in a much different way, you feel like you actually are addressing the issue and not just housing the issue.”

Peterson-Stigers said the testing is for anyone who is homeless and concerned about the Coronavirus -- or anyone coming onto their property to stay who qualify based on their symptoms.

Medical professionals from Family Medicine Health Center Idaho, a subsect of Family Medicine Residency of Idaho (FMRI), will be assessing them and administering needed tests, right then and there.

“Because we are a priority vulnerable population, FMRI is able to send those tests to the state lab, so we will have results within three days," said Peterson-Stigers.

According to the US Department of Housing and Urban Development, people experiencing homelessness often have a higher risk for exposure to communicable diseases.

Access to testing, however, helps curb the spread of COVID-19 in a community.

“And it will also safeguard them from not having access to medical if they’re sick," she said.

Interfaith Sanctuary continues to encourage social distancing and sanitizing -- while also requiring that people’s temperatures are taken upon entering.

Based on their current agreement, if a person tests positive for COVID-19, they’re directed to the more spacious Boise Rescue Mission to be quarantined.

She said she is working with Boise Rescue Mission's Reverend Bill Roscoe with their plans to protect this vulnerable population.

"If Boise Rescue Mission's shelters have a need... this is mobile. So they can hop in their van and go over to the Rescue Mission to administer tests there, if that person's not able to come over to our testing place," said Peterson-Stigers.