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Nearly everyone is impacted by COVID-19 in some way or another, but we feel that we have the responsibility to help others understand how this pandemic impacts people experiencing homelessness. The homeless community is currently facing unique challenges that have to potential to affect everyone.
People experiencing homelessness are particularly vulnerable to COVID-19. Most have reduced access to healthcare, and many have compromised immune systems due to the psychological stress of homelessness. This makes the disease more dangerous for the homeless community than the general population.
If the value of another human’s life isn’t enough to convince you, helping to care for their needs is in your own self-interest. Homeless individuals who pursue medical treatment use the same infrastructure as everyone else. Simply put, if hospitals are over capacity, they’re over capacity for everyone. Other efforts to “flatten the curve” may be effective, but the homeless don’t have the ability to shelter in place the way people with stable housing can. Ensuring the health and safety of the homeless is a step towards ensuring the health and safety of all.
Risks the Homeless Face
There are a number of additional risk factors homeless individuals face, but the key issue is their increased risk of exposure to and transfer of COVID-19. Large portions of the homeless community rely on the resources provided by shelters and drop-in centers for their survival. They simply don’t have the option to avoid using these locations that are often high traffic places with many people in close quarters. In addition to this, without stable housing, they are reliant on public transit and public spaces. This increases the likelihood of contracting and transmitting the virus.
Importance of Shelters
Homeless Shelters and drop-in centers place two key roles. The first of these is to provide basic resources such as safety, food, and temporary housing. We may take these for granted in our daily life, but many people do not have that privilege. Being able to meet these basic needs is a matter of survival.
The second role that these organizations play is helping individuals transition out of homelessness. Many provide additional resources such as counseling, employment readiness training, and educational support. When shelters are under-resourced and cannot provide a safe environment for their clients, it is much more difficult for people to transition out of homelessness.
Needs of Shelters & How You Can Help
The needs of individual shelters may vary at this time, but generally, many organizations are requesting:
If you’re unable to provide these items directly, donating money has a tremendous impact and allows shelters the flexibility to meet their own needs. Please visit the websites and social media accounts of shelters and drop-in centers in your area to see what they need most.
Caring for the needs of the homeless community at this time is not simply an issue of homelessness - it’s a public health issue. We must work together to ensure the safety of one another, including those who are the most vulnerable.
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