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Tent cities and tiny-house villages for homeless people have long been taboo in Los Angeles, where they’ve been deemed too expensive to maintain and too difficult to dislodge once established.

But the novel coronavirus has a way of upending the most deeply entrenched thinking.

Last week, the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs set up L.A.’s first temporary tent city in four decades. It’s for veterans without homes — 25 initially, with a plan to expand to 50 as needed — so they can wait out the COVID-19 crisis by sheltering in place and social distancing in their own tents.

Until now, the city and county of Los Angeles have largely relied on shelters — and increasingly hotel and motel rooms — to help protect homeless people who are most at risk for contracting the virus. But last week, a homeless man tested positive while staying at a shelter in the San Fernando Valley and 68 homeless people and two staffers were infected in an outbreak at a shelter in San Francisco. Now the incidents are prompting a fresh look at campgrounds.

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