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Thursday, March 26, 2020


by Susan Vespoli

PHOENIX — The clock is ticking for our state's homeless population, when it comes to preventing the potentially devastating effects of the coronavirus. Advocates who have been waiting for action from County and State officials, are now looking for their own ways to move the most vulnerable out of crowded shelters before it's too late. Since March 12 ABC15 has been pressing public health officials about how it plans to prevent, treat, and quarantine the more than six thousand people experiencing homelessness around Maricopa County should COVID-19 strike that community. Many are senior citizens and have underlying conditions, which are the groups for which the mortality rate is the highest. —ABC 15 Arizona, March 23, 2020 Photo: A homeless person sleeps in a mostly commuters free entrance of the LIRR in Midtown Manhattan on March 17. The first death of a homeless New Yorker from coronavirus has been confirmed by city officials. —New York Daily News, March 25, 2020. Photo Credit: Luiz C. Ribeiro

As the wind spins the whirligig
on my patio into a frenzy,
then knocks a plastic tub
against the shed with a thud,

followed by a downpour,
lightning bolts and thunder,
I wonder where the homeless
will sleep tonight,

numbers multiplying
like the virus.
Will it catch them
as they bed down

on bus-stop benches,
in tunnels along the canal,
or sprawled on the lawn
at an intersection? Like the man

I saw the other day lying on his back,
eyes closed; cart piled with rumpled
fabric and overstuffed plastic bags,
his legs straight out.

I figured he was dreaming,
his mouth turned up into a little grin
but tonight, as the storm bangs
the yellow aluminum rocker

on my patio back and forth
like it’s inhabited by a ghost,
I wonder if he’d just died
happy to be released.

Susan Vespoli is a poet/essayist from Phoenix, AZ who has been watching the number of people without homes escalate. In the wake of the coronavirus crisis, how many of us might end up there, too?