With his belongings in two suitcases and a tent for a home, Erik Jones spends the majority of his days wandering around NW. First Avenue, where his homeless condition seems to blend with the rest of the Wynwood area.
For the past 10 years, Jones has lived on the streets of Wynwood, one of the most famous areas in South Florida for locals and tourists to eat, party and shop.
When the pandemic hit, people were told to stay at home, practice social distancing and personal hygiene. For most of the population, these guidelines were easy to put into practice, if inconvenient and at times uncomfortable.
But for Jones, following the CDC guidelines to protect himself from COVID-19 became difficult when homeless shelters had to limit their services.
“The place I used to go to take a shower limited its services to only 100 people per day,” said Jones. “How am I supposed to stay clean?”
Less than 1% of Miami-Dade’s homeless population have tested positive for COVID-19, according to a report that aired on 7 News Miami in July 2020. No more reports have been made since then. One reason might be that the virus does not transmit well outdoors.
“I do not know what I would do if I tested positive for COVID-19,” said Jones. “I don’t count on the resources to treat myself.”
Before leaving to the shelter located around the corner to eat, Jones checked that his tent was closed, and his belongings were in order.
Miami-Dade County’s homeless population is one of the most vulnerable groups in South Florida.
“I hope I can be vaccinated soon,” said Ron Phillip, another homeless man. “It is not easy to stay safe when you don’t have a bathroom to do your basic necessities.”
Phillip has been living on the streets for the past 20 years. He lost his home due to his drug addiction.