Coronavirus in Chile

Being Homeless in Times of Covid-19: a Growing Problem in Santiago

Chile’s national police say 53 homeless people have died of Covid-19 since the pandemic’s arrival here. This reflects the worrisome situation of homeless people in Chile these days. “They said he died from the coronavirus, but I do not believe them, he died from the cold”, a friend from a homeless man that passed away last week told La Tercera.

Many working in the informal sector lost their jobs during the lockdown in Santiago, and the most vulnerable ended up living on the streets. Out of necessity, they often live, eat, and sleep in close proximity to each other, taxing their immune systems exactly when they can ill-afford to do so. 

Only last week, a 36-year-old man passed away seated against the walls of the Santa Lucia metro station in Santiago. After Carabineros checked his medical details, it appeared that the man was infected with Covid-19. Another homeless friend of the man, however, complained to La Tercera that “they did not even test us, they do not care at all”.

The government estimated that there were 15,500 homeless people in Chile in April. Of the 6,813 that live in Santiago, 2,848 are over age 50 and 2,324 suffer from chronic diseases. In spite of the extremely high risk of a fatal contagion, it becomes increasingly hard for government institutions to keep the growing group of homeless people in sight and give them the attention they deserve, including Covied-19 tests and medical attention.

The government did accelerate its “Winter Plan” (which provides temporary lodging and other essential services to homeless people when low temperatures hit), including more attention to basic health services and shelters where people can go into quarantine. With Chile’s Covid-19 peak still developing, however, it remains to be seen whether this plan suffices for the increasing number of homeless people.

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