According to the CDC, individuals who are experiencing homelessness are at great risk of contracting COVID-19. About 65 percent of the homeless population take residency in homeless shelters (whitehouse.gov). Due to homeless shelters being a congregated setting, the limited space occupied by a large amount of people (up to 100 plus) would make the disease more easily transferable from person to person. Likewise, the majority of individuals who experience homelessness are older adults who may have underlying medical conditions. This makes the homeless population even more susceptible to COVID-19 than the general population. For the 35 percent of those experiencing homelessness and do not have access to shelter, the situation is even more dire. While occupying unlivable spaces such as sidewalks, public transportation stations, parks, etc., they are even less equipped to comply with global prevention practices. Simple practices such as hand washing becomes an impossibility when there is no access to soap and clean water. In addition, one cannot sanitize items and belongings without available disinfecting agents. To make matters worse, social distancing and quarantine has limited the number of individuals present outside in communities. Thus, there are less people for those experiencing homeless to panhandle and possibly receive goods that may aid in their survival.
What can be done?
It is imperative that COVID-19 testing kits, face masks, and any other vital equipment is made accessible at homeless shelters. And, if possible, individual rooms or spaces should be provided in order for residence to practice social distancing. For those who do not have access to shelters, they should be allowed to be tested and receive resources such as face masks and disinfecting agents at local public health clinics.
How do we achieve this?
Make individuals experiencing homelessness a priority. Reach out to your local congressman to let them know that funds are needed to ensure the safety of the homeless population as well as frontline employees and volunteers providing aid. For more information about homelessness and ways to get involved, follow the link below. Community-Solutions and the National Alliance to End Homelessness has provided a means for us to send letters to our government officials.
Nicholas A. Carter
Homelessness and COVID-19 FAQs. (2020, April 7). Retrieved from https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/community/homeless-shelters/faqs.html
The State of Homelessness in America. (2019, September). Retrieved from https://www.whitehouse.gov/wp-content/uploads/2019/09/The-State-of-Homelessness-in-America.pdf
The Quick Facts on COVID-19 and homelessness. (2020, April 8). Retrieved from http://community.solutions/the-quick-facts-on-covid-19-and-homelessness/