According to the National Alliance to End Homelessness; National Health Care for the Homeless Coalition; National Low Income Housing Coalition; and researchers at the University of Pennsylvania, University of California, and Boston University, during the COVID-19 pandemic:
Homeless shelters face unique challenges when protecting people from COVID-19. Even with safety protocols—including more handwashing, daily deep cleaning, staggering meal times, and hanging curtains between beds—there is a high risk of coronavirus transmission. A CNBC article noted that shelters with already limited resources are facing additional shortages of volunteers and funds.
The coronavirus pandemic can create difficulties for families and youth experiencing homelessness and exacerbate existing conditions. According to the Pulitzer Center, the virus has pushed many low-income families into homelessness.
With schools closed, children lack needed routines, and parents may struggle with childcare options. Families without Internet access, devices, and lack of quiet places may struggle to keep up with schoolwork. Homeless students are more likely to struggle in school than their housed peers, and school closings may further this gap. In addition, according to the Institute for Children, Poverty & Homelessness, homeless students are more likely to have special education needs and have those needs addressed later than their housed peers. Despite the best efforts of teachers, school closings can make it more difficult for students to receive needed services.
While schools have been offering meals to families, transportation is sometimes required in order to get that food. Homeless children are more likely to have health issues such as asthma and mental health issues such as depression, but less likely to have access to health care. School nurses often provide needed care.
Many homeless families and youth may be “doubled up” with other family members or friends, making social distancing more difficult. Fear of contagion and lack of privacy (especially when people are home more frequently) may cause those families to be asked to leave. Homelessness is also a risk for LGBTQ youth who may experience family conflict when isolating and fear going to shelters.
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