Giving Compass' Take:

• Jennifer Erb-Downward explains the need for immediate action to provide resources and shelter for people facing homelessness throughout the global pandemic.

• What can we learn from coronavirus about our handling of the homelessness problem before pandemic struck? What can you do to support people facing homelessness in this public health crisis?

• Learn more about how you can contribute to funds for a variety of coronavirus response efforts.

The COVID-19 pandemic requires action to protect people who are homeless or facing homelessness, Jennifer Erb-Downward warns.

Here, Erb-Downward, a senior research associate at the University of Michigan’s Poverty Solutions initiative who studies family homelessness, behavioral health, chronic illness, and the reduction of health disparities, talks about the challenges people who are homeless face and the need for action to protect them:

When you are homeless, you have very little control over the spaces where you live. This makes social distancing—one of the main recommendations for coronavirus prevention—incredibly difficult.

Both living in a shelter or temporarily with another family means you are in an environment that is overcrowded, where it is easier for viruses to spread.

People who are unsheltered are already having difficulty finding places to use the restroom and wash their hands now that many businesses are closed during the pandemic, and this will become even more challenging as states implement strict shelter-in-place orders.

Ideally, we should find housing for people who are unsheltered or living in unstable housing situations—such as doubled up with another family or couch surfing.

California is purchasing trailers and leasing hotel rooms to provide shelter for vulnerable populations and isolate homeless people displaying COVID-19 symptoms.

Convention centers, university dorms, recreation centers, and other public spaces that are currently empty due to shelter-in-place orders also could serve as temporary homeless shelters.

In general, funneling federal and state resources to local officials and temporarily loosening restrictions that would prevent quick action will be the best way to make sure responses directly address local needs.

Read the full conversation about protecting people facing homelessness with Jennifer Erb-Downward at Futurity.