COVID-19 is caused by a new virus. There is much to learn about the transmissibility, severity, and other features of the disease. Everyone can do their part to help plan, prepare, and respond to this emerging public health threat.
Persons experiencing homelessness may be at risk for infection during the spread of COVID-19. Homeless service providers, including overnight emergency shelters, day shelters, and meal service providers are encouraged to utilize the following guidance for their facility's response planning.
Below are the CDC recommendations for homeless service providers highlighting how to protect their staff, clients, and guests. These suggested strategies designed to help homeless service providers can also be found on the CDC's website here.
Although it is not possible to know the course of COVID-19 in the United States, preparing now is the best way to protect people experiencing homelessness, homeless service provider staff, and volunteers from this disease. The spread of COVID-19 in your community could cause illness among people experiencing homelessness, contribute to an increase in emergency shelter usage, and/or lead to illness and absenteeism among homeless service provider staff.
Establish ongoing communication with your local public health department to facilitate access to relevant information before and during an outbreak.
During your planning process, homeless service providers should collaborate, share information, and review plans with community leaders and local public health officials to help protect their staff, clients, and guests. Set a time to discuss what homeless service providers should do if cases of COVID-19 are suspected in their facility, if a confirmed case of COVID-19 is identified in a client, or if a confirmed case of COVID-19 in a person experiencing homelessness is discharged from a local hospital. Identify if alternate care sites are available for clients with confirmed COVID-19 or if service providers should plan to isolate cases within their facility.
Develop or update your emergency operations plan
- Identify a list of key contacts
- Identify a list of healthcare facilities
- Include contingency plans
Address key prevention strategies in your emergency operations plan
- Promote the practice of everyday preventive actions
- Provide COVID-19 prevention supplies at your organization
- Plan for staff and volunteer absences
- Be prepared to report cases of respiratory illness that might be COVID-19 to your local health department and to transport persons with severe illness to medical facilities
- If possible, identify space that can be used to accommodate clients with mild respiratory symptoms and separate them from others
- Identify clients who could be at high risk for complications
- Prepare healthcare clinic staff
- Plan for higher shelter usage during the outbreak
Communicate about COVID-19 and everyday preventive actions
- Create a communication plan for distributing timely and accurate information during an outbreak
- Identify and address potential language, cultural, and disability barriers associated with communicating COVID-19 information to workers, volunteers, and those you serve
- Help counter stigma and discrimination in your community
- People experiencing homelessness may be at increased risk of adverse mental health outcomes
If cases or clusters of COVID-19 disease are reported in your community, put your emergency plan into action, to protect your clients, staff, and guests.
Early action to slow the spread of COVID-19 will help staff and volunteers healthy and help your organization maintain normal operations
Put your emergency operations and communication plans into action
- Stay informed about the local COVID-19 situation
- Implement everyday preventive actions and provide instructions to your workers about actions to prevent disease spread
- Communicate with your local health department
- Download COVID-19 posters and CDC Fact Sheets and keep your clients and guests informed about public health recommendations
- Minimize the number of staff members who have face-to-face interactions with clients
- Staff and volunteers at high risk of severe COVID-19
- If staff are handling client belongings, they should use disposable gloves
- Limit visitors to the facility
Ensure that clients receive assistance in preventing disease spread and accessing care, as needed
- In general sleeping areas, ensure that beds/mats are at least 6 feet apart
- Provide access to fluids, tissues, plastic bags
- Ensure bathrooms and other sinks are consistently stocked with soap and drying materials for handwashing
- At check-in, provide any clients with respiratory symptoms with a surgical mask
- Monitor clients who could be at high risk for complications
- Confine clients with mild respiratory symptoms consistent with COVID-19 infection to individual rooms, if possible, and have them avoid common areas
- If you identify any client with severe symptoms, notify your public health department and arrange for the client to receive immediate medical care
- Ensure that all common areas within the facility follow good practices for environmental cleaning
Remember, a COVID-19 outbreak could last a long time, and the impact on your facility may be considerable. When public health officials determine the outbreak has ended in your community , take time to talk over your experiences with your client and staff. As public health officials continue to plan for COVID-19 and other disease outbreaks, you and your organization have an important role to play in ongoing planning efforts.
Evaluate the effectiveness of your organization's plan of action
- Discuss and note lessons learned
- Participate in community discussions about emergency planning
- Continue to practice everyday preventive actions
- Maintain and expand your emergency planning