Detroit launches COVID-19 testing for individuals experiencing homelessness

Mike Duggan coronavirus presser -- March 16, 2020

DETROIT – Detroit will offer COVID-19 testing for individuals experiencing homelessness at a designated Salvation Army shelter.

The City of Detroit’s Housing & Revitalization and Health departments are launching COVID-19 testing of any symptomatic person experiencing homelessness, currently in the shelter system.

The tests will be conducted at a designated Salvation Army shelter, with the support of Wayne State University, the Community Foundation for Southeast Michigan and its foundation partner, the DMC Foundation.

Based on the 2019 point-in-time count, it is estimated that Detroit has about 2,100 people experiencing chronic homelessness, approximately half of which are in a shelter. The City has reopened two previously closed facilities and repurposed a recreation center to free up a third to better serve homeless persons affected by COVID-19.

Two more facilities will be reopened by April 19, adding a total of 500 beds for the city’s homeless since the start of the COVID-19 outbreak

Wayne State University is providing the COVID-19 tests and testing of the city’s homeless population. The Community Foundation for Southeast Michigan is providing funding for the testing.

“It's going to take our entire community to slow the spread of COVID-19. I would like to thank Wayne State University, the Community Foundation for Southeast Michigan and the DMC Foundation for stepping up to help us test our city's most vulnerable population during this crisis,” Mayor Mike Duggan said. “Their efforts, along with the efforts of our Housing and Health teams, will help stop the spread of this disease among those in our city experiencing homelessness.”

Earlier this month, shelters began screening individuals entering their facilities. Homeless members of the community will have their temperature taken before entering any shelter in the city, and, if found to have symptoms, will be taken a Salvation Army facility, where they will be tested for COVID-19 and receive accommodations in motel-style units that will assist in containing the virus’ spread. Of the 27 people taken to the facility so far, two tests returned positive as of Monday.

If you are in need of shelter, please call CAM at (313) 484-4449. Effective Monday, March 23, CAM began operating a phone line seven days a week from 7 a.m. to 8:30pm.

“We need homeless people suffering with COVID-19 to have the space and medical attention needed to improve their health. The ability to separate and treat those suffering with COVID-19 from other homeless individuals is important not only for the homeless population but for the City population as well,” said Donald Rencher, Director of the Housing & Revitalization Department. “Working across city departments and with our nonprofit and foundation partners during these challenging times helped us get immediate results and hopefully help stop the disease from spreading even worse.”

About the Author:

Ken Haddad is the digital content and audience manager for WDIV / He also authors the Morning Report Newsletter and various other newsletters. He's been with WDIV since 2013. He enjoys suffering through Lions games on Sundays in the fall.