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In LA's Homeless Shelters, Social Distancing Is Nearly Impossible

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It's the task of Los Angeles' homeless shelters to offer as many people as possible a place to sleep at night. Up to 12,000 men and women currently stay in shelters on cots lined up in rows.

But in the time of COVID-19, that setup means social distancing is near impossible. And thousands of vulnerable people are living in situations where the risk of infection is high.

Until Tuesday, Paul Klees, 53, was one of them.

"Everybody is crammed in, crammed in next to each other," he said by phone at the end of March. "And you know, it's out of an abundance of an offer to help that we're full."

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Klees said conditions inside the shelter were ripe to spread illness. He said there was no soap, no sanitizer and irregular access to shower facilities. Even more concerning, he said the residents were asked to leave the shelter during the day, something corroborated by another resident.

"We're sent out during the day to interact with the community, and we come back in the evening," said Jeffery Sharp, 39. "The conditions are almost a petri dish."