UBC Faculty Research and Publications

Seeking shelter : homelessness and COVID-19 Baral, Stefan; Bond, Andrew; Boozary, Andrew; Bruketa, Eva; Elmi, Nika; Freiheit, Deirdre; Ghosh, S. Monty; Goyer, Marie Eve; Orkin, Aaron M.; Patel, Jamie; Richter, Tim; Robertson, Angela; Sutherland, Christy; Svoboda, Tomislav; Turnbull, Jeffrey; Wong, Alexander; Zhu, Alice

Abstract

Those experiencing homelessness in Canada are impacted inequitably by COVID-19 due to their increased exposure, vulnerability of environment and medical comorbidities, and their lack of access to preventive care and treatment in the context of the pandemic. In shelter environments one is unable to effectively physically distance, maintain hygiene, obtain a test, or isolate. As a result, unique strategies are required for this population to protect them and those who serve them. Recommendations are provided to reduce or prevent further negative consequences from the COVID-19 pandemic for people experiencing homelessness. These recommendations were informed by a systematic review of the literature, as well as a jurisdictional scan. Where evidence did not exist, expert consensus from key providers and those experiencing homelessness throughout Canada was included. These recommendations recognize the need for short-term interventions to mitigate the immediate risk to this community, including coordination of response, appropriate precautions and protective equipment, reducing congestion, cohorting, testing, case and contact management strategies, dealing with outbreaks, isolation centres, and immunization. Longer-term recommendations are also provided with a view to ending homelessness by addressing the root causes of homelessness and by the provision of adequate subsidized and supportive housing through a Housing First strategy. It is imperative that meaningful changes take place now in how we serve those experiencing homelessness and how we mitigate specific vulnerabilities. These recommendations call for intersectoral, collaborative engagement to work for solutions targeted towards protecting the most vulnerable within our community through both immediate actions and long-term planning to eliminate homelessness.

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Attribution 4.0 International

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