Sheriff Homeless Outreach Unit Takes on Humanitarian Mission During Coronavirus Pandemic

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Along the Los Angeles River in South Gate, the first person that an elite team of LA County Sheriff deputies approached showed signs she may be sick.

They promised to send a nurse to follow up, but it was exactly why the homeless outreach services team was on the ground this day.

"Some of the people in the beginning didn't believe it, but they're starting to recognize the ideas of being out here," said one of the members of the unit, Chris Lewis.

The homeless are perhaps the most vulnerable population in all of LA County, which is why what's happening is so important as the number of COVID-19 cases within the homeless community is on the rise.

There are nearly 30 confirmed cases amongst people experiencing homelessness, said LA County Health Department Chief Dr. Barbara Ferrer. The majority were unsheltered and there were six who were sheltered, she said.

"We also have hundreds of people who are experiencing homelessness whose status are persons under investigation or are people who need to be quarantined."

Besides handing out the hygiene kits and masks from the LA Homeless Services Authority, deputies are checking on their well-being, a humanitarian mission, and looking for those 65 years old and older, or those with underlying health conditions.

"We don't want people to die in a tent," said Sgt. William Kitchin, an LASD homeless outreach services team member.

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