|JUNE 2021||ADDRESSING DISASTER VULNERABILITY AMONG HOMELESS POPULATIONS DURING COVID-19|
Sarah De Young***
Dennis P. Culhane****
This rapid expert consultation was produced through the Societal Experts Action Network (SEAN), an activity of the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine that is sponsored by the National Science Foundation and the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation. SEAN links researchers in the social, behavioral, and economic sciences with decision makers to respond to policy questions arising from the COVID-19 pandemic. This project is affiliated with the National Academies’ Standing Committee on Emerging Infectious Diseases and 21st Century Health Threats, sponsored by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Office of the Assistant Secretary for Preparedness and Response.
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* Research Associate, Natural Hazards Center, Institute of Behavioral Science, University of Colorado, Boulder
** Research Coordinator, Collaborative on Extreme Event Resilience, University of Washington
*** Assistant Professor, Sociology and Criminal Justice, Disaster Research Center, University of Delaware
**** Professor, Dana and Andrew Stone Chair in Social Policy, University of Pennsylvania
***** Associate Professor of Sociology, Southeastern Louisiana University
Reducing disaster vulnerability for people experiencing homelessness during the COVID-19 pandemic requires adapting existing preparedness guidance to an evolving situation. This rapid expert consultation reviews research on disaster vulnerability, homelessness, the COVID-19 pandemic, and intersecting hazards and disasters. It includes (1) considerations for alternative shelter facilities for homeless populations during a disaster, (2) suggestions on how to navigate service reductions and support population-specific needs, and (3) guidance for supporting populations experiencing homelessness in the aftermath of disasters.
The use of alternative shelter facilities during the COVID-19 pandemic presents new challenges for emergency planners; local decision makers; providers of homeless services; and individuals and organizations embedded in continuums of care that need to take steps to create and implement disaster preparedness, response, and recovery plans, for both their organizations and the people they serve. During the COVID-19 pandemic, disruptions to key services for populations experiencing homelessness may lead to secondary effects in the context of a disaster, including effects on health and safety, which require additional population-specific support. Finally, the COVID-19 pandemic has exacerbated disaster vulnerability for many individuals and communities, and as a result, additional strategies are needed for addressing housing precarity and removing barriers to disaster assistance in the aftermath of a disaster. Box 1 summarizes key strategies for responding to these challenges.