A “potential powder keg” surrounding homeless people and COVID-19 has so far been averted, according to Fred Campbell, M.D., an internal medicine physician and associate professor of medicine at UT Health San Antonio.

Last month, the San Antonio Metropolitan Health District, working with the city’s largest homeless shelter, Haven for Hope, took over a downtown Holiday Inn at Santa Rosa and Cesar Chavez and moved around 300 extremely vulnerable people without homes into the vacant hotel.

Fred Campbell, M.D.
Fred Campbell, M.D., internal medicine physician and associate professor of medicine

Dr. Campbell, who has years of experience working with homeless people in San Antonio, was on hand the first day to volunteer his medical services.

“These are all older adults,” he said. “They start off being homeless, which is very high risk for COVID-19. They have multiple health issues. This is an attempt to make sure the highest risk people have an opportunity to get a decent accommodation while they are, for all intents and purposes, sequestered from the rest of Haven’s population and the rest of the community.”

Dr. Campbell said all the homeless people at the hotel entered voluntarily and agreed to self-isolate.

Metro Health set up an urgent care clinic in the hotel’s fitness room, he said, adding that he makes at least weekly visits to treat any medical needs.

“No one has yet contracted the virus,” Dr. Campbell said, “and now that it’s been more than two weeks, unless something strange happens they don’t have to worry about becoming infected.”

He said that health care providers from across the community have volunteered at the hotel clinic, and more are always needed.

“The benefits of this kind of a setting, which I believe was an incredible concept on the part of local government and Metro Health, is providing a means of preventing an incredible potential for a desperate illness among a high-risk population,” Dr. Campbell said. “And needless deaths. It’s providing the services that this population so desperately needs right now.”

Funding for the hotel and another temporary overflow shelter comes from the federal Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act.