Homelessness has been a rampant issue in America. 193,000 Americans will sleep on the streets TONIGHT. Many homeless people suffer from chronic illness - making them more vulnerable to the effects of COVID-19.
With the impact of COVID-19 on citizen's income, there is no doubt that the number of people who are homeless will continue to increase. With many Americans not able to pay for their food and rent, they may be forced out to the streets or into shelters.
Basic hygiene like washing hands and having access to hand sanitiser is difficult when on the street. Stocking up on toilet paper, canned goods and essentials is not on option when you are homeless.
How Can It Start An Outbreak
Homeless people are known to be an at-risk across the USA. They often move around a lot, move from one shelter to another, and live in close proximity to other homeless people. Contrary to the preventive measures for COVID-19, their mobility could potentially make homeless people more susceptible to catching COVID-19.
Scientists have looked at this population and found that many homeless people have tested positive, but they were asymptomatic and did not have obvious COVID-19 symptoms. In a study of 147 people living in a shelter, only 1 had a fever and 11 reported a cough.
The reports show mild to no symptoms among positive homeless people. This might not seem alarming for most but being under the radar will only worsen the disease's spread among these vulnerable homeless people.
What If We Continue to Ignore Them?
If the authorities continue to ignore this situation or don't perform any interventions, approximately 21,300 homeless people in the United States are bound to be hospitalised due to COVID-19 and potentially 3,400 homeless people will die.
New York City is known to have the highest number of homeless people in the United States. It has been reported that more homeless people have been affected by the disease. Those who died from the disease had a ratio of 321 deaths per 100,000 homeless people.
Testing And Community-Wide Solutions
Scientists have offered ways to deal with this situation. While health departments have agreed to conduct more testing within the homeless population, some health officials are hesitant. Even if there is more testing, it can be difficult to follow-up, especially with the limited healthcare, communication and other resources.
Protecting unsheltered homeless and the risk of COVID-19 to the entire homeless population takes a whole community approach. Both local and state departments, along with housing authorities, have worked hand in hand to provide additional protective housing opportunities to those in need.
At the Seattle convention centre in Washington, beds were designated to homeless people and spaced two metres apart to reduce coronavirus spread. Other homeless people were given jobs as contact tracers and were allowed to stay in hotels.
Homeless people may not have the money or health insurance, but they still deserve equal healthcare treatment, especially during the pandemic. It has been a rising concern that this neglected population could become the cause of a potential 2nd wave outbreak.
We can still help these unsheltered citizens in little ways. Though it may not be ideal to stay outdoors, it pays to give them extra protection whenever they are left to sleep on the streets. A Backpack Bed offers full-body protection for homeless people without shelter. It not only protects them from harsh weather, but it also lessens their chances of catching anything.