By Peter D'Oench

MIAMI (CBSMiami) – The Chairman of the Miami-Dade Homeless Trust says a new plan to move elderly people out of shelters and off the streets and into hotels and an assisted living facility could save lives by slowing the spread of COVID-19.

Chairman Ron Book tells CBS4’s Peter D’Oench “We are talking about saving the lives of elderly individuals who no one else has taken care of. I am concerned about the overloading of seniors who populate our shelters and who are unsheltered.”

Book says “Homeless folks, in general, have a life expectancy that is 15 years shorter than you an I. Why? Because of all the elements involving being homeless and second of all they often have an immune-compromised system.”

Book says a total of 165 homeless people will eventually be moved from at least three facilities and the streets to an Assisted Living Facility in North Miami and a hotel in Overtown and the Red Roof Inn near the Miami Airport.

Books says 20 people are being moved from the Chapman partnership site in Homestead and 27 people are being moved from Chapman North on Miami Avenue at 15th Street.

66-year-old George Kilpatrick told D’Oench that he had just moved into the ALF in North Miami after living at Chapman North. He has been homeless for a year and has medical issues and is worried about the Coronavirus.

“I have a bad heart and I have COPD and I have bones missing,” he said. “So I am worried. I am grateful for this new place. It is a great place. I like it. The people are nice and the staff is nice. They treat you like people. I can’t believe it. I feel real good about this because when you get older you know people have problems. People like seniors need help.”

Kilpatrick said “My concerns are whether I am going to make it through this and whether I Can stay healthy. I hope I will. I hope it will be better. And I am grateful on behalf of all the other homeless people.”

Book said one person at Chapman North did test positive for COVID-19.

“The individual who tested positive was highly visible,” he said. “He was a member of the senior staff, a person who was out there in the general population.”

Book said the Homeless Trust had been very aggressive over the past two years.

“We are ahead of New York and California,” he said. “We went out on to the street and spoke to people in English, Spanish, and Creole. We reinforced all the important ideas, taking hand sanitizers and wipes and reminding them to take great care and remember if you are touching the ground, benches, rails, wash your hands again and again.”

“This move to get seniors out of the general population will mitigate the spread of the virus. We know it’s coming in a greater way.”

Book says he’s not sure if the program will be expanded or how long it will last. He says it could last until June—-maybe longer. “We don’t know what will happen in the future, in the fall, for example. We have to be prepared.”

Peter D'Oench