July 17, 2020Blog

COVID-19: State of Homelessness: 2020 Edition

From: National Alliance to End Homelessness

According to the CDC, some individuals are at higher risk of becoming seriously ill from COVID-19.  They include older adults age 65 and over.  However, people experiencing homelessness age faster than housed people.  Research indicates they have physical conditions that mirror those of people 15-20 years older than them.  On a single day, an estimated 202,623 single adults experiencing homelessness are over age 50, suggesting they may be uniquely vulnerable to becoming seriously ill during the pandemic crisis.

An additional CDC-identified risk group is people with pre-existing health conditions.  Before the current crisis, growing numbers were experiencing unsheltered homelessness—a living situation associated with poor health.  A recent study sampled unsheltered individuals from across the country, finding 84 percent self-reporting existing physical health conditions.  Only 19 percent of people in shelters said the same.

Homeless individuals infected by COVID-19 would be twice as likely to be hospitalized, two to four times as likely to require critical care, and two to three times as likely to die than the general population.

During the current pandemic, there is a new challenge—the number of people who contract an infectious illness (COVID-19) while needing homeless services.

Self-quarantine, social isolation, and stay-at-home orders are difficult, if not impossible, to follow when you do not have a home.  Thus, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has offered guidance on how to best serve people in shelters and unsheltered locations.  Meeting COVID-19-related health needs is putting new strain on homeless services systems, especially those with large numbers of infected consumers.

Recent research predicts the number of COVID-19 cases that will arise among people experiencing homelessness in the nation’s counties.  Those facing the most severe challenges mainly reside in major cities such as Los Angeles, New York City, San Jose, Seattle, Oakland, San Francisco, Las Vegas, and Phoenix.