HomeEquality & JusticePopsicle shop turned shelter for Manila's homeless ordered closed

Popsicle shop turned shelter for Manila’s homeless ordered closed

Popburri, a Manila eatery that was transformed into a shelter for the homeless amid the coronavirus pandemic, has been closed by Philippine authorities on March 28.

The temporary shelter allegedly did not follow the government’s quarantine protocols, including the observance of social distancing protocols.

Camille Dowling, who runs Popburri, complied with the closure order even as she insisted that the establishment had “exerted efforts to comply to the protocols.”

Dowling claimed the village chief also accused the shelter of having no permit to operate although she was able to get the chief’s permission a week earlier.

“I am frustrated at the politics of all of this. I asked and they gave me zero solution. I felt that they just wanted to make these homeless leave the community,” she said.

“If you know about the virus and how you can contract it, you’d realize that the complaints are less about the virus, it’s more of they have a problem with [the homeless],” said Dowling.

“If we protect the most vulnerable, we are protecting the community,” she said.

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Popburri started to open its doors to the homeless on March 19 with the support of the village officials.

The initial plan was to transform Popburri, which had specialized in popsicles, into just sleeping quarters for street dwellers. But with the overwhelming support of the neighborhood it has also turned into a feeding center.

The increasing number of homeless people who flocked to the eatery worried neighbors and village officials.

On March 21, the church-run Arnold Janssen Kalinga Center, another homeless shelter, was also ordered closed by authorities due alleged violations of quarantine protocols.

More temporary shelters open

Church institutions in Manila have already opened schools and facilities as temporary shelters for the homeless and healthcare workers.

In the Archdiocese of Manila, nearly 400 homeless and street dwellers are staying in three Catholic schools, two La Salle universities, and one Benedictine-run school.

Homeless families are given shelter by the local government of Quezon City in the Philippine capital. (Photo by Jire Carreon)

Bishop Broderick Pabillo, apostolic administrator of the diocese, said the schools also provide food, access to clean water, and medical services to the homeless.

“Once they get in, they have to stay inside the facility until the lockdown is lifted,” said the bishop. “We see to it that we follow strict health protocol to protect them and the church people.”

The archdiocese also opened the Nazarene Catholic School to accommodate healthcare workers from the nearby government-owned San Lazaro Hospital.

At least 17 parishes in the Manila Archdiocese also opened their facilities as temporary sanctuaries for the homeless and people in need of provisional shelter.

The archdiocese’s social action commission has activated local parishes as distribution channels of emergency relief packs and sanitation kits to augment the local government. 

The Association of Major Religious Superiors in the Philippines also opened convents and churches for healthcare workers who need a place to stay during the lockdown.

At least 15 convents and church facilities have already offered rooms and spaces for front-line healthcare workers in the capital.

As of March 29, the Philippines has 1,418 confirmed cases of COVID-19 with 71 deaths and 42 people who recovered from the disease.

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