More Than Just a Health Crisis: COVID-19 and Consumers
People experiencing homelessness survive on the streets with the help of community support. The COVID-19 crisis has disrupted this support, and people are struggling to meet their needs, particularly while businesses are shut down. Restaurants where people could use the bathroom or shower are now closed, libraries where people access the internet and complete the tasks they need to get stable aren’t open, and many communities are struggling to provide food in ways that are safe and accessible. Communities must consider the needs of people experiencing homelessness and find ways to meet them during this crisis.
“I think overall consumers are feeling nervous and unsure of the future; especially those who are living outside. With the new normal being Social Isolation, what does that mean for encampments and shelters, when most of the shelters are already at capacity with no room to place people six feet apart?” said Amy Grassette of Family Health Center of Worcester, MA, and the former chair of the Council’s National Consumer Advisory Board. “I think people are also worried if they’ll be able to get food… And I also think as a result of all the businesses having to close, many more people will become homeless for the first time.”
In addition to meeting peoples’ physical needs, we must also meet their emotional and social needs. Created communities and relationships are critical for the well-being and survival of people without homes, making the difficulty of social distancing even more challenging. Recent CDC Guidance that encampments should not be swept but rather provided with public health resources would allow for these communities to stick together during this time. Similarly, shelters should create room arrangements that allow people to remain together, safely spaced. Individuals who have been recently housed may struggle with isolation, and communities should consider support options for checking on these folks. During times of fear, it is easy to retreat to negative thoughts or trauma responses—it is okay to feel fearful during this time, but this crisis will pass, and we will get through it together.
Is your local Consumer Advisory Board taking innovative steps to support people without homes during COVID-19 or in need of guidance? Please contact us to share your practices or to learn more about best practices. More resources on COVID-19 and people without homes—including our recent webinar on coronavirus and the HCH community—are available on our website.