Joe Lawlor’s informative May 31 article on this past flu season ends with the director of Portland Public Health stating that when homeless people with the flu are discharged from the hospital, homeless shelters should quarantine them because they are still contagious. Holy Moses! I hope this is a correctable misunderstanding or a reporting mistake. 

I used to work at a women’s shelter in Portland – filled day and night with women eating together, sleeping on cots in the same room and sharing bathroom and laundry facilities. How on earth would someone be quarantined? You might as well ask the shelters to fly them to the moon!

A large portion of people in shelters are physically and/or mentally compromised. Many are elderly or have poorly treated diabetes, heart disease, addiction, severe mental illness or other chronic illnesses. (Many relatively healthy people may go through a period of homelessness, too, so be careful not to stereotype.)

If you want to stop the flu from spreading, people who are contagious should not be discharged to the shelters. Period. Put them up in a hotel and give them a caseworker until they are no longer contagious.

Mary Henderson


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