COVID-19 and Homelessness

Now is the moment to bring everyone home.


COVID-19 changed the urgency with which our country treats homelessness and our sense of what can be done. We won’t go back. 

Federal, state, and local government responses to the pandemic bring opportunities to right wrongs and solve homelessness at a massive scale. We must seize these opportunities to reduce homelessness.

Homelessness has always been a matter of life and death for the people experiencing it.

COVID-19 has underscored that it’s a public health crisis for us all.


HIGH RISK FOR
COVID-19.

People experiencing homelessness are those among the highest risk for infection, complication, and death from COVID-19.


UNSAFE LIVING CONDITIONS.

They often have underlying health conditions, are exposed to crowded shelters that are tinderboxes for infection, and lack access to sanitation and spaces to socially distance. 


POTENTIAL
OUTBREAKS.

These vulnerabilities are the same conditions that have accelerated outbreaks of other diseases among this population, such as hepatitis B, hepatitis C, and tuberculosis.

COVID-19 also revealed the kind of bold steps we are capable of taking to address mass homelessness.

This crisis turned populations of people who have suffered from societal indifference into a public health priority. In response, many localities and leaders took urgent, historic action. Cities moved people experiencing homelessness, in significant numbers, from streets and shelters to safety into hotels and motels. Partnerships across sectors have been forged and deepened in ways like never before. In many places, government funding to find solutions for homelessness has surged.

We know what we can and must do.

  • All people on the streets must be connected with safe accommodation. Ensure those who are older, disabled, ill, and chronically homeless are helped into permanent housing.
  • All those in temporary accommodations must be moved into permanent homes. Nobody goes back to homelessness. We must rapidly identify and secure affordable housing options and provide any needed supportive services for those temporarily housed in hotels and motel rooms across the country. 
  • We must prevent a new wave of homelessness. Every indicator, from unemployment to expiring eviction moratoria, points to a surge in new homelessness. We must prevent this crisis now. This includes looking at people experiencing homelessness now, and the more than 1.1. million people cycling between the streets and institutions, like jails, adult and youth group homes, and hospitals.

The choices we make now will determine whether we accelerate reductions in homelessness, or whether we slip back into the conditions that made our communities and neighbors so vulnerable in the first place. Three approaches must be applied:


ACCOUNTABILITY

We must create accountability for the impact of these investments, using data to track outcomes.


PUBLIC HEALTH

COVID-19 has highlighted that the actors involved in upholding public health — from agencies to health care providers to social safety net organizations— and homeless services are locked together in a shared fate. They must now share a permanent mandate, vision, and agenda for ending homelessness.


RACE EQUITY

Black and Native American communities that have always carried the heaviest and deadliest burdens of our systemic failures, including homelessness, are being forced to do so again. These aims will fail to successfully protect the most vulnerable communities if they are not focused on improving outcomes for Black and Native American populations. 

We can make major strides in homelessness, even as the country is threatened with an unprecedented wave of new homelessness.

But we must act quickly.

Business as usual did not work before, and certainly will not work now. This must happen in weeks and months – not years. Join us in making it a reality.


THE LATEST

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

COVID-19 NEWS

Maricopa AZ testing
Rosanne Haggerty
scene of Columbia, MO at dusk
gender minorities are more likely to be homeless
DC Capitol
Cathy Alderman
Michael Macor / The Chronicle
The Mastercard Center for Inclusive Growth
Veteran
jacksonville testing
Canon City Daily Record
public health tracing
UK homelessness
Sacramento skyline
row of house organge
pile of bills
jacksonville testing
rent due
The CARES Act includes $12.4 billion for the Department of Housing and Urban Development as well as an injection of funding for individuals, businesses, states, and local governments.
Unemployment benefits aid begins, 1938 / Photograph by Dorothea Lange
We need your help to urge state and local governments to focus on allocating this new funding to protect people experiencing homelessness and homeless system response staff, and to limit inflow into health care and hospital systems.
homeless lives matter sign
Scenes from the Salvation Army in Madison Wisconsin. Like so many communities, the city has adapted their work to protect people experiencing homelessness and the homeless response workers who serve them.
empty DC
Bergen County
Community leaders offer solutions, support, and hope during Built for Zero virtual learning session
We must protect the unhoused now.
money and house
sitting on ground
COVID-19 resources
Lack of space for safe social distancing and not enough personal protective equipment are among the top concerns facing homeless service providers
U.S. Congress
Headshot of founder Rosanne Haggerty
We need your help to urge state and local governments to focus on allocating this new funding to protect people experiencing homelessness and homeless system response staff, and to limit inflow into health care and hospital systems.
Researchers from the University of Pennsylvania, the University of California, and Boston University have released an in-depth analysis of the impact of COVID-19 on the homeless population.
The CARES Act includes $12.4 billion for the Department of Housing and Urban Development as well as an injection of funding for individuals, businesses, states, and local governments.
Homeless service providers on the front lines of COVID-19 response need your help.
Lack of space for safe social distancing and not enough personal protective equipment are among the top concerns facing homeless service providers
Americans experiencing homelessness are at greater risk for contracting COVID-19 and are more likely for the illness to prove severe or fatal,
The COVID-19 crisis that is spreading across our globe serves as a stark reminder that our lives depend on one another.
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