Justa Center: Some Homeless Seniors Falling Through COVID-19 Testing Cracks

Published: Thursday, December 10, 2020 - 12:05pm

Some homeless seniors are falling through the cracks when it comes to testing for the coronavirus, which means they could be sick and no one would know. But that could be changing very soon.

Wendy Johnson is the executive director of Justa Center, a resource and day center that serves the elderly homeless population. 

What we're learning is that the seniors who are not being sheltered in a traditional shelter program are not getting tested for COVID. 

So they could be asymptomatic or even symptomatic and potentially exposing others. Johnson says they reached out to the city of Phoenix for help.

And they're working on having one of their mobile testing vans here, one or two days a week, starting in mid-December. So that will be a huge help in specifically working with these seniors who are high risk. 

It’s not a done deal yet. Johnson says the Phoenix City Council will meet next week to give final approval. 

In addition to testing challenges, Johnson says there's another concern: The number of homeless seniors, people 55 and older, is on the rise, both in Arizona and across the country. And the coronavirus pandemic has made this crisis much worse. 

"We're at almost 50% of the people coming to Justa Center for the first time. ... We were at 39-to-41% last year," she said. "That's a that's a big number jump."

Johnson said these seniors feel “devastated” and “shell-shocked” when they finally find Justa Center after trying to navigate the housing and social services systems. She says many seniors are simply being priced out of their homes and the cost of living is too high for those on fixed incomes. 

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