COVID-19 and Homelessness

Protecting people experiencing homelessness is critical for saving lives, containing the spread, and preventing our hospitals from being overwhelmed. 


From the front line

Challenges from Built for Zero communities

From the Hill

The state of federal funding

From the sector

Resources for the homeless response system

Thanking those on the front lines who have always known housing is a matter of life and death.


Americans experiencing homelessness are at greater risk for contracting COVID-19 and are more likely for the illness to prove severe or fatal. 

  • People experiencing homelessness are more likely to be older, chronically ill, or immunocompromised
  • They may be less equipped to comply with directives to practice social distancing and wash hands, due to living in conditions without adequate space or running water.

A failure to protect this population will overwhelm hospital systems, which are already under critical duress.

  • More than half a million people experience homelessness on any given night, but there are fewer than 100,000 intensive care beds in the nation’s hospitals
  • A report by researchers from the University of Pennsylvania, UCLA, and Boston University assumes that people experiencing homelessness are twice as likely to be hospitalized. It notes that 40% of people experiencing homelessness could contract the virus and as many as 10% could require hospitalization. In many U.S. communities, numbers like this could overwhelm their hospital capacity.
  • An analysis conducted by Dr. Brendan O’Flaherty, a professor of economics at Columbia University, projects an increase in homelessness by 40-45% this year over January 2019, an addition of nearly 250,000 people, if homelessness follows unemployment the way that it has done so in the earlier part of this century.


We are mobilizing our teams, networks and partners to urgently support our communities. 

We are working to prevent deaths among people experiencing homelessness, protect staff on the front lines, and help preserve hospital capacity for everyone who needs it. 

  • Our Built for Zero coaching team is supporting local teams in more than 80 communities through ongoing coaching, convening and the facilitation of peer learning as they respond to COVID-19.
  • We’re securing resources that respond to what these communities are struggling with, such as personal protective equipment, staffing, testing and tools, and forging partnerships where they are needed.
  • The Brownsville Partnership, in one of New York City’s hardest hit neighborhoods, is coordinating the delivery of critical resources to families and supporting the Brownsville Mutual Aid Network.
  • Our real estate team is helping communities to acquire properties for emergency and long-term housing use.

We will continue to share what you can do to be a part of the solution.


Support the leaders of your homeless response system.

If you are in a Built for Zero community, you can find a list of the organizations that are leading the Built for Zero work here


Contact your elected officials.

We need your help urging federal, state, and local governments to ensure people experiencing homelessness are not left behind.

Stop sweeps in your community.

CDC’s guidance states that providing individual units are the best prevention measure for COVID-19 among unsheltered homeless populations, and unless they can be provided, encampments should be allowed to remain and be supplied with access to sanitation facilities. Our partners at the National Law Center on Homelessness & Poverty have developed a letter template to advocate for a moratorium of sweeps in your community, in accordance with this guidance.