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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:

How Trauma Informed Care is helping homeless families

Written by admin on . Posted in Awareness, Domestic Violence, Education, Families, Mental Health, Policy Advocacy, Poverty, Women, Youth

The National Coalition for the Homeless recently hosted a Congressional briefing on Trauma Informed Care (TIC) and homeless families. Trauma Informed Care is an important topic that is rapidly gaining notability due to its capacity to teach practitioners how to engage with individuals who have experienced trauma without the use of damaging punitive or paternalistic attitudes.

Representative Alcee L. Hastings of the 20th District of Florida, co-chair of the Congressional Homelessness Caucus, began the briefing with opening remarks. He was then followed by a panel of TIC experts, including Cheryl Sharp, the senior advisor for trauma informed services at the National Council for Behavioral Health, Jennifer Pearlman, the coordinator for trauma informed care for the Colorado Coalition for the Homeless, Leah Harris, the TIC specialist for the National Association of State Mental Health Program Directors, and Barbara Anderson, the director of Haven House Services. The panel was moderated by Carmela DeCandia, the director for child and family initiatives from the Center on Social Innovation. Each speaker brought a complimentary perspective from a different facet of homeless and mental health services, as they informed the audience on their knowledge and experience with trauma informed care.

Each panelist explained that trauma informed care serves as an organizational strategy to help social service agencies gain the awareness, knowledge, and skills to better support individuals on their pathway to recovery. This approach prompts service providers to respond to the recipient’s psychological and emotional needs rather than just provide resources. It necessitates that service providers approach recipients from a perspective of empathy that rejects ideologies of individual blame for issues created by much larger forces. This ideology is pertinent in light of the findings of the SHIFT study that showed, 93% of homeless mothers had a history of trauma, 79% experienced trauma as children, 81% experience multiple traumatic events, and 36% had a lifetime history of post-traumatic stress disorder. The SHIFT study also provides valuable insights on the impact of public policy on the creation of homelessness and poverty.

With the severe lack of affordable housing in this country, only one out of four low-income families that are eligible for federal rental assistance will receive it. Meanwhile, the minimum wage is not sufficient enough to cover the cost of housing in many cities. Without stable housing, traumatic vulnerability occurs, which can result in assault, mental and physical health issues, and substance abuse. More than half of homeless children are under the age of 6, which is a critical time for brain development and resilience. Cheryl Sharp warned that when children do not know if they are safe it impedes upon their development. Traumatized caregivers are more likely to pass adverse experiences onto children, and are less emotionally and physically available. This is compounded on the stressors of being homeless. Even sheltered families can experience trauma because of danger in these environments, instability, and a lack of mental health knowledge among caregivers. This trauma furthers the barrier to successful re-housing. We must demand systemic change to increase our nation’s affordable housing stock, and make TIC funding available in existing shelters and service organizations to allow homeless families pathways to stability and healing. Barbara Anderson stated that ending homelessness and the resulting trauma requires the completion of two main objectives: solving the root causes of homelessness through a paradigm shift to a democratic government that addresses the needs of the people, and healing the trauma of past policies with social service investment. Our political representatives, our shelters, our service providers, our schools, and our culture must implement trauma-informed strategies, because within our current mode of operation, we are only making surviving in America more difficult.

Interested in measuring the TIC in your organization? Check out the ticometer at www.Thinkt3.com.

– Kyra Habekoss and Quinn Kobelak 
   NCH Interns

Affordable Care Act – Medicaid Expansion UPHELD

Written by NCH Staff on . Posted in Advocacy, Healthcare, Policy Advocacy

The National Coalition for the Homeless (NCH) supports today’s Supreme Court ruling enabling the expansion of medical coverage to those most in need. Homeless people suffer from multiple health problems at a higher rate than those who aren’t, yet 55% have no medical insurance. Increased access to Medicaid will provide medical services to the country’s most vulnerable citizens who would otherwise remain uncovered. Such an increase will facilitate management and recovery from untreated medical problems, as well as prevent many from entering homelessness due to unmanageable medical bills. While NCH applauds this initial step towards change, it will continue to advocate for a health care system that guarantees access and eliminates all financial barriers to health care services for all Americans. NCH looks forward to discussing equitable and practical solutions to ensure that all homeless people have equal access to medical coverage.

Here is the Supreme Court’s full decision.

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