Life Support - Homelessness & COVID-19

In Understanding Homelessness, we find there are many reasons that can lead up to someone becoming homeless. There is one current issue that bypasses much discussion and thought and that is the impact that COVID-19 can have on people experiencing homelessness. Though the coronavirus does not cause homelessness, it is very important to discuss as it is a serious threat to the homeless community - a stable home is important for good health. Before the virus spread, persons experiencing homelessness were already facing greater health concerns: an adult experiencing homelessness between the ages of 25 and 65 was 4.5 to 9 times more likely to die from health concerns than a housed individual with similar health concerns. The homeless community must now contend with the virus, which is more likely to spread on the streets. Cathy Alderman, vice president of public policy for the Colorado Coalition for the Homeless, explains the added challenges faced by individuals experiencing homelessness this spring: “You can’t stay home if you don’t have one. You can’t wash your hands if you don’t have access to facilities, and you can’t social distance if you live in a crowded, congregate setting.” In one shelter in San Francisco, over a quarter of patrons tested positive; in a Boston shelter, 1 in 3 individuals tested positive, and nearly 90% of those infected didn’t have any symptoms, making it very likely that they would contribute to the continuing spread of the communicative disease. 
What is being done to address this?
While there are few organizations aimed specifically at confronting this unprecedented issue, many organizations are expanding their services to help keep those experiencing homelessness safe and healthy. Shelters, such as those managed by URM, are taking extra precautions to keep residents, volunteers, and staff safe. Many organizations are collecting and distributing supplies such as hand sanitizer and masks. The LA County is offering individuals who are particularly vulnerable to the illness housing in local hotels, through a program called Project Roomkey. The National Alliance to End Homelessness has outlined a series of practical steps public officials can take immediately to protect the homeless community. United Way of Greater Los Angeles has established a Pandemic Relief Fund, which passed $700,000 only days after its announcement. These funds are being used to provide relief directly to unsheltered residents of LA County, as well as those at-risk of homelessness due to impacts of the virus.

From The Centers For Disease Control & Prevention:
Are people experiencing homelessness at risk of COVID-19?

"People who are homeless are at risk of COVID-19. Homeless services are often provided in congregate settings, which could facilitate the spread of infection. Because many people who are homeless are older adults or have underlying medical conditions, they may also be at higher risk for severe disease than the general population. Health departments and healthcare facilities should be aware that people who are homeless are a particularly vulnerable group. If possible, identifying non-congregate settings where those at highest risk can stay may help protect them from COVID-19."


How can people experiencing homelessness protect themselves when COVID-19 is spreading in their community?

"Many of the recommendations to prevent COVID-19 may be difficult for a person experiencing homelessness to do. Although it may not be possible to avoid certain crowded locations (such as shelters), people who are homeless should try to avoid other crowded public settings and public transportation. If possible, they should use take-away options for food. As is true for everyone, they should maintain a distance of about 6 feet (two arms’ length) from other people. They also should wash their hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds as often as possible, and cover their coughs and sneezes."

Can homeless service providers accept donations?

"Homeless service providers can accept donations during community spread of COVID-19, but general infection control precautions should be taken. Request that donors not donate if they are sick. Set up donation drop-off points to encourage social distancing between shelter workers and those donating. According to usual procedures, launder donated clothing, sheets, towels, or other fabrics on high heat settings, and disinfect items that are nonporous, such as items made of plastic. Food donations should be shelf-stable, and shelter staff should take usual food-related infection prevention precautions. For more information about COVID-19 and food, see the Food and Drug Administration’s website on Food Safety and COVID-19 external icon. For further information on cleaning and disinfection, see here."

Life Originelle’s Support:

At Life Originelle we strive to do whatever we can with whatever we have to help bring people to freedom and love. The impact the Coronavirus is having on the homeless community can be detrimental. As our first cause of the season, we at Life Originelle decided to do our small bit to help our local Los Angeles community. That is why every purchase that was made during the Summer 2020 season at Life Originelle helped create and provide a face mask for a woman or child experiencing homelessness through Union Rescue Mission's transitional housing shelter, Hope Gardens. To support our global community and artisans overseas during COVID-19 we partnered up with a family owned factory in India who practices safety and ethics throughout their production processes in providing beautiful high quality cotton masks. We are hopeful these masks will provide the same sense of ease and security for those in need as they do for everyone.


Written By:

Camille Sammeth
Recent graduate from Harvard College and is passionate about elevating marginalized voices through storytelling.

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