COVID-19

This is how cities are helping homeless people self-isolate

A homeless person talks to Red Cross workers in Rome, Italy, March 17, 2020. Since the coronavirus crisis, Red Cross workers have been increasing their daily activities to meet the growing needs of the homeless in Rome. With nobody around on the streets to give them food or money, and restaurants that would usually donate leftovers closed, homeless are struggling to find food and other supplies to keep them going. REUTERS/Guglielmo Mangiapane Coronavirus china virus health healthcare who world health organization disease deaths pandemic epidemic worries concerns Health virus contagious contagion viruses diseases disease lab laboratory doctor health dr nurse medical medicine drugs vaccines vaccinations inoculations technology testing test medicinal biotechnology biotech biology chemistry physics microscope research influenza flu cold common cold bug risk symptomes respiratory china iran italy europe asia america south america north washing hands wash hands coughs sneezes spread spreading precaution precautions health warning covid 19 cov SARS 2019ncov wuhan sarscow wuhanpneumonia  pneumonia outbreak patients unhealthy fatality mortality elderly old elder age serious death deathly deadly

Homeless people are one of the groups at greatest risk of contracting and dying from COVID-19. Image: REUTERS/Guglielmo Mangiapane

Rosamond Hutt
Senior Writer, Formative Content
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COVID-19

  • Homeless people are more likely to have underlying health conditions than the wider population, which puts them at greater risk of dying from COVID-19.
  • California’s Governor estimates that up to 60,000 homeless people in the state could end up infected with COVID-19.
  • Cities around the world are coming up with contingency plans – London’s Mayor is making 300 hotel rooms available so homeless people can self-isolate.

People around the world are self-isolating at home to try to stem the spread of COVID-19.

But what if you live on the streets? What if you have to share a cramped space in an emergency shelter or temporary accommodation?

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Already among society’s most vulnerable, homeless people are one of the groups at greatest risk of contracting and dying from COVID-19.

The virus hits older people and those with underlying health conditions hardest. Homeless people are three times more likely to have chronic diseases than the wider population – respiratory and heart problems in particular.

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Homeless people are also less able to distance themselves from others and to wash their hands frequently, both of which are important measures to protect against the virus.

Homelessness charities and outreach service providers in countries including Australia, Canada and the United Kingdom have warned of the enormous challenges homeless people – and the front-line workers supporting them – face in the coming weeks and months.

The Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, has responded to calls to help homeless people self-isolate by making 300 hotel rooms available.

The Mayor’s team is working with the Intercontinental Hotels Group (IHG) to block-book the rooms in two central London hotels for a trial period of 12 weeks.

Coronavirus china virus health healthcare who world health organization disease deaths pandemic epidemic worries concerns Health virus contagious contagion viruses diseases disease lab laboratory doctor health dr nurse medical medicine drugs vaccines vaccinations inoculations technology testing test medicinal biotechnology biotech biology chemistry physics microscope research influenza flu cold common cold bug risk symptomes respiratory china iran italy europe asia america south america north washing hands wash hands coughs sneezes spread spreading precaution precautions health warning covid 19 cov SARS 2019ncov wuhan sarscow wuhanpneumonia  pneumonia outbreak patients unhealthy fatality mortality elderly old elder age serious death deathly deadly
California has more homeless people than any other US state. Image: Statista

A day earlier, California Governor Gavin Newsom announced a goal of providing 51,000 hotel rooms across the state for homeless people. At the time, 2,000 hotel rooms had been lined up and 1,300 trailers ordered.

California has more than 150,000 homeless people – the most of any state in the US – and Governor Newsom estimates that up to 60,000 could end up infected.

In Seattle, which saw the first known case of COVID-19 in the US, outreach workers are working on social distancing in shelters, according to reports.

The city’s Mayor, Jenny A. Durkan, has announced plans to open emergency quarantine and isolation sites and to provide accommodation for homeless people in “tiny house villages”.

Paris has also opened self-isolation centres with hundreds of beds for homeless people who test positive for COVID-19 but who do not need to be hospitalized.

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COVID-19Global HealthCities and Urbanization
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