Jan 19, 2021 - As a community, everyone is struggling to adhere to the restrictions brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic. Dealing with lockdowns, isolation, social distancing and balancing life and our own mental health has not been an easy feat.  Even through harsh economic times and job loss, the majority of us still have our basic needs in place – food, shelter and water. What about those who have no housing?

A recently released study in the Canadian Medical Journal finds that the homeless are 5 times more likely to die due to COVID -19!

Research collected at the hospital level indicates the homeless having a much higher rate of respiratory and underlying health conditions, leading to ICU admissions and death. In an article published in the CBC, temporary housing in densely populated shelters, where social distancing is hard to maintain, increases the risk of contracting COVID.

“Providing adequately distanced shelter has been a regular call during the pandemic, including from a group of 300 doctors and health care workers who asked for the government to open more hotels and student residences back in April.”

In another article posted on Homelesshub.ca, experts backed these findings in the community by citing that shelters  contribute to the spread of the coronavirus due to “…shared living spaces, crowding… and high population turnover…people experiencing homelessness find it difficult to adhere to public health directives such as isolation, social distancing and quarantine due to shelter conditions.”

So ...where do the homeless go?

Many have opted to live in tents as opposed to subjecting themselves to shelters to avoid infection. However, this is not a sustainable long term solution and without structured and supportive housing, they lack the community supports to keep them safe and healthy.

There is no confusion surrounding the link between health and housing and providing adequate housing for the homeless is needed more than ever, given the mortality rates of the homeless during the pandemic.

Experts agree, “there is only one way to move forward: a major investment in housing.”

Although the housing crisis has been an age old debate, the effects of the virus have prompted government to re-evaluate ways to provide adequate and safe housing for our vulnerable population. 

It should be made a public priority to increase the availability of supportive housing where physical distancing and isolation is in place for the homeless, with a better chance of ‘effective and equity-based interventions.’

Ultimately, having access to long term housing, with supports and implemented control measures, will increase the rate of recovery when dealing with COVID-19.

Let's hope governing bodies will recognize the need and act sooner than later for the sake of the homeless...

Be Well and Stay Well!