Mar 17, 2020
National call held for over 2,000 local, state, and national advocates, services and housing providers, reporters, and congressional staff on addressing the needs of people experiencing homelessness and other precariously housed individuals during the coronavirus pandemic.
Washington, DC – More than 2,000 housing and homelessness advocates, services and housing providers, reporters, and Capitol Hill staff registered for a national call hosted by NLIHC’s Disaster Housing Recovery Coalition (DHRC) on federal, state, and local government responses to the coronavirus pandemic related to precariously housed low-income households and people experiencing homelessness.
Speakers gave updates from highly impact areas, including Washington state, California, New York, and Massachusetts. Leaders from state and local agencies and nonprofits – the Citizens’ Housing & Planning Association in Massachusetts; the New York City Housing Authority; the King County, WA, Housing, Homelessness and Community Development Division; the Seattle/King County Coalition on Homelessness; and Destination HOME in San Jose, CA – discussed the urgent need for increased federal, state, and local resources to serve people experiencing homelessness and other low-income residents in their communities and to mitigate the spread of the virus within the community and to staff. National allies from the disability, immigrant-rights, homelessness, and healthcare communities – the World Institute on Disability, Hispanic Federation, National Alliance to End Homelessness, and National Health Care for the Homeless – highlighted the unique needs of marginalized populations and emphasized the disproportionate impact coronavirus may have on individuals in these communities. People experiencing homelessness are at much greater risk of coronavirus infection and of experiencing serious complications due to their inability to isolate, quarantine, and recover; to the fact that many having underlying conditions; and to systemic barriers to them receiving appropriate medical care. The vast majority of extremely low-income renters spend more than half of their incomes on rent and are at a high risk of eviction and homelessness during the crisis.
Beth Cooper from the office of Senate Banking Committee Ranking Member Sherrod Brown (D-OH) shared federal updates and urged advocates to continue to press for the resources they need by communicating to their members of Congress. The House has passed by unanimous consent a revised coronavirus emergency bill, sending it to the Senate to take up this week. While the resources and provisions included in this bill are an important first step, the legislation fails to address the housing and health needs of America’s lowest-income renters and people experiencing homelessness, a glaring omission given the threat posed to these communities.
Any comprehensive response to coronavirus must include resources to help ensure housing stability for low-income individuals and people experiencing homelessness, including emergency rental and eviction prevention assistance, and financial assistance for homelessness service providers, housing authorities, and housing providers. The DHRC has created a set ofrecommendations to Congress to address these critical needs, including:
- Emergency McKinney-Vento funds to help local communities address the pressing needs of people experiencing homelessness, including resources to help individuals self-quarantine and isolate and to help shelters hire needed staff and obtain additional space. To ensure access to healthcare needs, Congress should ensure medical respite care is funded and should provide resources for outreach and street medicine;
- A national moratorium on foreclosures, evictions, and homeless encampment sweeps to help renters and homeowners remain stably housed during and after the coronavirus outbreak, and to protect against further spread of coronavirus among people experiencing homelessness, as well as limited and targeted rental assistance;
- The creation of an emergency assistance fund to help prevent evictions by providing short-term financial assistance and housing stabilization services; and
- Access to legal services and foreclosure and eviction counseling.
“People experiencing homelessness are at high risk of both severe illnesses from coronavirus and of potentially spreading it to others given their inability to isolate or self-quarantine after being exposed to the illness. It has never been clearer that housing is health care,” said Diane Yentel NLIHC president and CEO. “Homeless shelters and service providers need money, and they need it now. The Senate must expand on the first, inadequate step taken by the House and quickly pass a bill that includes critical resources to protect people experiencing homelessness and those at risk of homelessness. This is not just a moral imperative; it is an urgent public health necessity.”
Listen to the recording of the DHRC call and access other up-to-date federal and state resources on the coronavirus as it relates to housing and homelessness at: https://tinyurl.com/wdqcjea