Confirmed coronavirus cases among Boston’s homeless tops 400

A man was screened with a metal detector after entering St. Francis House, one of Boston's largest shelters.
A man was screened with a metal detector after entering St. Francis House, one of Boston's largest shelters.Jessica Rinaldi/Globe Staff

The number of confirmed novel coronavirus cases among Boston’s homeless population has more than doubled in the span of two weeks, topping 400 as of Wednesday morning, according to authorities.

Mayor Martin J. Walsh’s office said that 426 people experiencing homelessness have tested positive for COVID-19, of 1,302 people tested, meaning about one in three homeless residents tested are confirmed cases.

The new statistics mark an increase from earlier in the month. On April 7, city authorities said there were about 200 cases in the city’s homeless community, which numbered greater than 6,000 in the last city census.

The pandemic has presented challenges for those who do not have permanent homes; they are unable to isolate, and the nature of temporary shelters where hundreds gather each night to sleep makes social distancing impossible. For weeks, officials have warned of the outbreak sweeping through the city’s homeless population, prompting local authorities to take action.


Service providers last month set up temporary isolation and quarantine sites outside several local shelters, including the Southampton Street shelter in the South End. Some, like the St. Francis House, established screening processes to check people for symptoms.

Additionally, a pop-up field hospital at the city’s cavernous convention center in the Seaport became Boston’s newest medical facility. The site, known as Boston Hope Medical Center, has 1,000 beds for patients with coronavirus, 500 for those who need medical care, and another 500 for individuals who are homeless and recovering from COVID-19.

Walsh’s office said Wednesday there were 169 patients at Boston Hope. Of that number, 97 were homeless.

As of Tuesday, Boston had more than 6,000 coronavirus cases, which included 196 deaths.

Vernal Coleman of Globe staff contributed to this report.

Danny McDonald can be reached at daniel.mcdonald@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @Danny__McDonald.