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Protecting people experiencing homelessness from coronavirus is a moral and public health imperative

Community Solutions President Rosanne Haggerty explains what you can do to help people experiencing homelessness and homeless service providers during this time of crisis.
  |  March 19, 2020

The COVID-19 crisis that is spreading across our globe serves as a stark reminder that our lives depend on one another. We are all better off when we keep ourselves — and the most vulnerable among us — safe, healthy, and protected. In this time of crisis, leaders of Built for Zero and homeless service providers across the country have been thrust onto the front lines to serve this critical role.

As an organization, we are committed to supporting these communities through this crisis. And as we listen to their experiences, we have become deeply alarmed that people experiencing homelessness — and the frontline staff working to protect them — are being left behind.

More than 567,000 people in the U.S. are currently experiencing homelessness. Because they are likely to be older, chronically ill, or immunocompromised, Americans experiencing homelessness are among those at highest risk of suffering severe or fatal consequences and requiring hospitalization. 

Protecting people experiencing homelessness is both a moral and public health imperative. A new report from the University of Pennsylvania, UCLA, and Boston University estimates that as many as 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. 

As cases continue to emerge, providers are struggling to secure additional spaces where people experiencing homelessness can recover in isolation or quarantine so they can protect themselves. Many still do not have the protective equipment and supplies they need to keep themselves and those experiencing homelessness safe.

“The call is clear: protecting people experiencing homelessness is a moral and public health imperative.


Amidst all of this, the Senate passed an emergency relief package yesterday that did not include any assistance for people experiencing homelessness. This is not acceptable. There is too much at stake for the lives of our neighbors, our health care systems, and our communities.

The call is clear: protecting people experiencing homelessness is a moral and public health imperative. The federal government must step up.

We have a critical job to do together: 

  • Reach out to your congressional representatives using this letter developed by our partners at the National Alliance to End Homelessness. Share this story with them on social media, letting them know they must include emergency funds focused on the needs of people experiencing homelessness. 
  • Reach out to your mayor, county executive, and especially your governor and ask for people experiencing homelessness to be a priority of the emergency management team. Convey that resources are needed to ensure health care workers and frontline homeless service providers have the personal protective equipment and supplies they need. 
  • Support the organizations that serve the homeless population in your city to ensure they have what they need — whether it’s donations, food, cleaning supplies, or something else. Check their websites or social media accounts for more information.

We will pull through this if we all pull together. We are grateful for you and hope you and your loved ones are staying safe.


Rosanne Haggerty
President, Community Solutions