To combat the spread of COVID-19, physical distancing measures are being instituted around the world. But for those experiencing homelessness and insecure housing, safety measures are not only out of reach, they’re not an option.
While the burden of disease in society has never been equal, people experiencing homelessness during the pandemic are paying an especially high price. With social services stretched thin and businesses shuttering, rather than keeping people away from shelters, the virus has driven many in. Once there, they’re met with perfect conditions for the rapid spread of the coronavirus: overcrowded and sometimes unsanitary conditions, surrounded by others who have come in contact with hundreds of people prior to entry, with the added risk of pre-existing conditions.
While total prevention is impossible, major cities around the world are scrambling to lower the risk of widespread outbreaks and preventable deaths. In tackling this, there have been common challenges: confronting the issues of overcrowding and relocation, evading defunding, maintaining staff and volunteer safety, and racing to fill supply shortages, to name a few.
As countries grapple with an insufficient number of tests, the shortage is especially noticeable in difficult environments. Homeless populations are more transient and mobile than the general public, making it difficult to track, test, and prevent transmission, and with that, officials fear that current figures are painting an insufficient picture. Positive cases inside shelters often fail to capture the scope of the peril. In New York, for instance, case figures do not include people staying in shelters run by charities or other public agencies.
As the pandemic rages on, shelters providing support are also burdened with their own financial uncertainties ahead, due to the COVID-19 crisis.
In the throes of a global recession, and bracing for a prospective depression, shelters are also concerned about a spike in the homeless population.
Read the full article about homelessness and COVID-19 by Meg Black at Global Citizen.