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What homeless folks should know about Coronavirus (COVID-19)

Written by admin on . Posted in Awareness, Blog, Healthcare

Updated 3/10/2020

With any public health or natural disaster emergency, those who are unhoused are often more at risk for poor health outcomes or other trauma. We understand that spread of communicable disease is much easier without adequate access to hygiene facilities or a safe home, so we wanted to share a few resources for those experiencing homelessness or service providers. 

The current outbreak of the novel corona virus that started in China spreads much the same way as the flu, through person to person contact, especially through droplets in the air produced when an infected person coughs or sneezes. Symptoms can include: fever, cough and shortness of breath.

The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) believes at this time that symptoms of COVID-19 may appear in as few as 2 days or as long as 14 days after exposure. Most infections in healthy children and adults are mild, the greatest danger is with those who have health conditions that limit the capacity of one’s immune system.

While there are no confirmed cases of COVID-19 infection in someone experiencing homelessness in the U.S., we are concerned that people who already lack ready access to hygiene facilities, a safe home and in many cases, adequate health care, will be especially vulnerable to complications from the spread of the virus. To prevent spread of the virus, the CDC recommends washing your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds, especially after going to the bathroom; before eating; and after blowing your nose, coughing, or sneezing. If soap and water are not readily available, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol. Always wash hands with soap and water if hands are visibly dirty. 

But what if you don’t have anywhere to wash your hands, or a home to stay away from crowds?
 Read: What if you can’t stay home?

Our recommendations:

  • More broadly realize that everyone who may be experiencing homelessness would not be in as great a risk of poor health outcomes, or spread of COVID-19, if they had access to safe, decent, affordable and accessible housing. We still have a lot of work to do to address the underlying income inequality and lack of low-cost housing that has perpetuated homelessness for decades.
  • Ensure that national, state and community-level public health/pandemic planning and response includes the homeless population and homeless service agencies.
  • Cities should provide hygiene facilities (port-a-potties, hand-washing stations) and trash pickup for residents of encampments – during and after any pandemic has passed.
  • There should be a moratorium on encampment sweeps that displace already displaced households and that often cause the loss of personal property that includes medication and other life-sustaining items.
  • All tests, treatment and quarantine locations should be offered without cost for all members of the community – housed or not, with or without health insurance.
  • Each community should identify space that those who do not have a permanent home can access in case of quarantine. Any costs should come out of community-level public health resources.
  • Federally, we would discourage homeless dollars being used to provide quarantine, testing or treatment. Homeless services are already woefully underfunded, and widespread homelessness was ALREADY a public health emergency!
  • Finally, we are concerned for the safety of unhoused folks who may be discharged from medical care to make room for COVID-19 treatment. This has happened in other emergency settings.  

If you are:

  • Experiencing symptoms? Please go to your nearest hospital or healthcare facility. Click here to find your closes Healthcare for the Homeless clinic. 
  • A service agency administering to vulnerable folks? Click here for CDC Posters to post in public areas about the spread of COVID-19, and see the additional resources below. 
  • An outreach worker or concerned citizen, consider stocking up on bottles of hand sanitizer or wipes to hand out to folks staying in encampments or other outdoor locations. 

Resources:

Remembering those lost to Homelessness

Written by admin on . Posted in Advocacy, Awareness, Hate Crimes, Mortality, Violence Against the Homeless

For nearly three decades, advocates for people experiencing homelessness nationwide have taken one day out of the year to remember those who have passed due to the trauma of homelessness. Symbolically commemorated on December 21st, the winter solstice and longest night of the year, National Homeless Persons’ Memorial Day serves as a reminder of the daily violence experienced by those who are without permanent housing.

Every year, we mourn those we have lost and bemoan persistent homelessness that does not seem to be getting better. DC memorialWe have lost so many of our neighbors due to violence perpetrated by those who see people experiencing homelessness as less than human, or the structural violence that exacerbates easily preventable disease or shortens life expectancy by 20-30 years. I remember my fellow AmeriCorps volunteer and colleague Jesse, whose heart gave out after only a handful of years off the streets. I remember Cliff, the talented photographer and vegetarian, conscripted to eating American cheese sandwiches in the shelter, even as his health failed due to cancer. These, and so many others, were our friends, our colleagues, our family members, who became victims of a lack of affordable housing.

The fact remains that a lack of housing is unhealthy, traumatizing and significantly shortens an individual’s life expectancy. People who experience homelessness have an average life expectancy of around 50 years of age, almost 20 years lower than housed populations. The Center for Disease Control (CDC) states that people experiencing homelessness are at a greater risk of infectious and chronic illness, poor mental health, and substance abuse

They are also more susceptible to violence once experiencing homelessness, a fact confirmed by over 20 years of reports on bias-motivated crimes against people experiencing homelessness showing 1,769 reported acts of violence against people experiencing homelessness, 476 of which were lethal.

In 2017, there were 22 cities that reported the number of people experience homelessness who lost their lives without a place to call home. Out of those cities that reported, 2,525 homeless community members passed away. Consulting reports about deaths of people experiencing homelessness in 2016, we estimate that at least 13,000 people pass away each year while without housing.

Homelessness is the most extreme expression of structural housing poverty. This form of extreme poverty hasn’t always existed at the levels we see today, and doesn’t have to be a permanent state in all of our communities. We need to invest in our shared humanity through investment in publicly affordable housing. We need to build healthier and more compassionate communities, that ensure all residents’ basic human needs are met. May this Memorial Day be a reminder to all of us that working together, we can build our housing infrastructure, and reinforce our safety net of food, cash, medical and housing assistance, so we don’t lose another brother and sister to the streets.

We invite all of you to register your Memorial Day events at https://nationalhomeless.org. If you are not able to host your own event, please participate in a nearby event to memorialize our fallen community members that passed away without the dignity to have a place to call home. Homeless Persons’ Memorial Day is co-sponsored by the National Health Care for the Homeless Council and the National Coalition for the Homeless.

#ThrowbackThursday

Written by admin on . Posted in Awareness, Blog, History

Do you still #TBT? Many of us have a short-term memory when it comes to policy, social media too perhaps, cause I haven’t seen a #ThrowBackThursday post since Facebook started showing you your past posts.

The National Coalition for the Homeless recognizes that we are at a pivotal moment in our social policy. Modern mass homelessness, as we know it, began, not that long ago, in the 1970’s. But here we are, again facing threats to social programs that are vital for the survival of working families, and now in the midst of unprecedented economic inequality.

In solidarity with the National Low Income Housing Coalition’s Our Homes Our Voices Week of Action (May 1-9) and the Poor People’s Campaign: A National Call for a Moral Revival 40 Days of Action (May 14-June 23), we are going to be posting historical information that relates to current trends, policy proposals, and cultural perceptions of those who experience poverty and homelessness.

To kick us off, we’ve included some more detailed history about how and why our organization was formed, and what we have accomplished over the years.

NCH Historical TimelineNCH’s Story

When modern homelessness first emerged in the late 1970s, hundreds of thousands of homeless were forced to fend for themselves on the streets, and many died or suffered terrible injuries. In 1979 a lawyer named Robert Hayes, who co-founded the Coalition for the Homeless in New York City, brought a class action lawsuit in New York State Supreme Court against the City and State called Callahan v. Carey, arguing that a constitutional right to shelter existed in New York. In particular, the lawsuit pointed to Article XVII of the New York State Constitution, which declares that “the aid, care and support of the needy are public concerns and shall be provided by the state and by such of its subdivisions…” The Coalition brought the lawsuit on behalf of all homeless men in New York City. The lead plaintiff in the lawsuit, Robert Callahan, was a homeless man suffering from chronic alcoholism whom Hayes had discovered sleeping on the streets in the Bowery section of Manhattan.

On December 5, 1979, the New York State Supreme Court ordered the City and State to provide shelter for homeless men in a landmark decision that cited Article XVII of the New York State Constitution.

In August 1981 Callahan v. Carey was settled as a consent decree. By entering into the decree, the City and State agreed to provide shelter and board to all homeless men who met the need standard for welfare or who were homeless “by reason of physical, mental, or social dysfunction.” Thus the decree established a right to shelter for all homeless men in New York City, and also detailed the minimum standards which the City and State must maintain in shelters, including basic health and safety standards. In addition, Coalition for the Homeless was appointed monitor of shelters for homeless adults.

On the heels of the landmark Callahan win, the decision was made to take the work of the Coalition for the Homeless national. Robert Hayes organized a meeting of several local coalitions in San Francisco in April 1982, out of which the National Coalition for the Homeless was established.

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