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The Quick Facts on COVID-19 and homelessness

We must act now to prevent deaths and avoid overwhelming the American healthcare system
March 23, 2020

Many people have asked what they can do to ensure homelessness is a priority in the COVID-19 response. The federal government has not prioritized this incredibly vulnerable population, and the stakes are incredibly high.

We must act.

As our Community Solutions President mentioned, you can reach out to your congressional representatives as well as your mayor, county executive, and your governor. If you need more information to guide those conversations, here are the facts:

The Problem:

  • Americans experiencing homelessness are at greater risk for contracting COVID-19 and are more likely for the illness to prove severe or fatal, because:
    • People experiencing homelessness are more likely to be older, chronically ill, or immunocompromised
    • They may be less equipped to comply with directives to social distance and wash hands, due to living in conditions without adequate space or running water
  • 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.

Why It Matters:

  • Protecting people experiencing homelessness is critical for saving lives, containing the spread, and preventing our hospitals from being overwhelmed:
    • More than half a million people experience homelessness on any given night, but there are fewer than 100,000 intensive care beds in the nation’s hospitals

What Could Solve It:

  • Congress must allocate funds to protect people experiencing homelessness and people at risk of housing instability or homelessness. An in-depth analysis by the University of Pennsylvania, UCLA, and Boston University estimated that $11.5 billion of funding would be critical for ensuring that at-risk people experiencing homelessness could quarantine and people who have contracted the illness can self isolate.

What your Mayor, Governor, and County Executive Must Do:

  • 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.