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Giving Compass' Take:
• Christine Liao's article for Global Citizen covers the conflating effects of homelessness, extreme wildfire danger, and COVID-19 on California's homeless population.
• What can you do to help supply aid to homeless populations during the pandemic and natural disasters?
• Read more about the harmful effects of smoke on California's homeless population.
A less visible danger caused by the wildfires is the impact of the smoke and ash on people’s respiratory health, especially for those who have to spend time outdoors due to their working or living conditions. In California, more than 150,000 people are currently experiencing homelessness, two-thirds of whom are without shelter.
For those without shelter, the smoky skies and harmful air quality are particularly concerning, especially at a time when COVID-19 is forcing the entire nation to stay at home and get fresh air outdoors. In the case of people experiencing homelessness, the former isn’t an option, and the latter is now a health hazard.
Homelessness is closely connected to poorer physical and mental health, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). The rates of conditions such as diabetes, heart disease, and HIV/AIDS are three to six times higher among the homeless population than the general population. Many of the health problems among people experiencing homelessness result from barriers to health care, food insecurity, and limited access to resources and social services.
The COVID-19 pandemic posed additional challenges to the health of people experiencing homelessness. Not only do they lack care and resources, but also areas where they can shelter-in-place and social distance.
Now, as cities on the West Coast face unhealthy air quality, people experiencing homelessness are once again at a higher risk of illness than the rest of the population.
"I think if coronavirus and homelessness was a crisis within a crisis, you add wildfires to that and it's a crisis within a crisis within a crisis," Margot Kushel, director of the Benioff Homelessness and Housing Initiative, told Salon.
Read the full article about California's homeless population by Kristine Liao at Global Citizen.