I hope you, your family, and your friends are safe and well.
So many people in our country and around the world are not. Many have lost their lives, and many more have fallen ill. Even more have lost their jobs, health care, or homes.
People who are homeless are among the hardest hit by the crisis we are all experiencing. As I wrote last month, they are exceptionally vulnerable due to poor health, lack of insurance and health care, and unstable or non-existent housing. Congregate shelters, overcrowded housing where people live doubled- or tripled-up, and encampments offer little hope of social distancing or sanitation. And as New York Times columnist Charles Blow noted, citing the Law Center, the pandemic affects Black Americans disproportionately, as does homelessness itself.
At the Law Center, we are very fortunate to be well, safe, and able to work remotely, taking action to address this terrible crisis. While we have much more to do, I am happy to report important impact of that work since I last wrote:
- On March 22, 2020, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention issued guidelines for community responses to unsheltered homelessness, adopting many of our recommendations. Emphasizing the importance of housing homeless people, the CDC guidelines urge communities to not “sweep” people from encampments but rather to offer them housing. At a minimum, they must offer sanitation and toilets to encampment residents.
- The Law Center has developed a letter template for local advocates to use to alert their local governments about the CDC guidelines—and to prevent sweeps and demand housing. Advocates in New York City, Phoenix, Chicago, Puyallup, Fort Lauderdale, and more have also used the letter in order to secure housing for unsheltered homeless people.
- The new CARES Act—the Stimulus enacted on March 27, 2020—includes $4 billion in funding for on-the-ground groups providing shelter, housing, and rental assistance to prevent homelessness. This aid was added to the Stimulus thanks to a major advocacy campaign by a coalition of organizations, including the Law Center.
Much remains to be done. Much more aid is needed—researchers estimated a total of $15 billion is needed for the immediate response. Additional guidance is needed from the CDC targeted at congregate shelters. The Law Center’s letter campaign to house unsheltered homeless people needs to reach many more people.
And while we must focus on immediate crisis, we must also keep our eye on longer-term, sustainable solutions.
Tomorrow, we’ll be launching a new webinar series to share tools and information. Please tune in.
Thank you so much for all you do! Your work and support mean everything at this critical time.
Founder & Executive Director
Race, Homelessness, and COVID-19
Before the COVID-19 crisis began, communities of color were already disproportionately affected by homelessness and housing insecurity due to a history of racist economic and housing policies. Now, the disparate effects of the pandemic on communities of color are revealing themselves in different states and cities throughout the country.
The existing inequities and evidence of disparate impact already occurring underline the need for a short and long-term response that equitably centers communities of color and people experiencing homelessness. The Law Center is publishing a fact sheet on the COVID-19 impact on the homeless community and communities of color as well as recommendations to address these inequities. For the fact sheet and additional information, click here.
Support Youth Experiencing Homelessness During the COVID-19 Outbreak
In this time of upheaval in all aspects of our daily lives, many schools are trying to keep children fed and educated even though they can’t physically be on campus. For children experiencing homelessness and poverty, being away from school means being away from a vital source of food, shelter, and support.
As schools come up with solutions during the pandemic, the Law Center urges that they take into account the limitations students experiencing homelessness may now be facing—they may not be able to reach meal distribution points, they may not have access to the digital devices or internet connection necessary for virtual learning, and they may be difficult to keep track of. But the McKinney-Vento Act’s education provisions still apply and require that schools make accommodations to ensure the enrollment and retention of students experiencing homelessness, including giving those students equal access to education and other school services.
The Law Center is keeping track of good practices across the country and is working to make sure that students experiencing homelessness have their needs met during the pandemic. For questions about how McKinney-Vento can help in these particular circumstances and for some best practices, please visit our COVID-19 page.
NEWS from the Law Center
Law Center’s Pro Bono Network Answers the Call!
The Law Center’s Pro Bono Partners have stepped up to answer the call during this critical time. They are actively engaged in our efforts to address the unique way COVID-19 has impacted people experiencing homelessness. Those efforts include:
- Microsoft exploring ways to ensure direct payments under the CARES Act are adequately implemented for people experiencing homelessness./li>
- Sullivan & Cromwell LLP tracking the best policy and advocacy practices for responding to COVID-19 in state and local jurisdictions, as well as nationally.
- Multiple firm partners such as Alston & Bird LLP, Fish & Richardson, and Goodwin Procter LLP fighting to shelter the houseless in vacant hotels, advocating against encampment sweeps, and pushing municipalities to provide functional sanitation facilities so people experiencing homelessness can do their part to stop the spread of the virus.
None of this work would be possible without the help of our Lawyers’ Executive Advisory Partners. Their volunteer efforts remind us that we all have a role in protecting those most affected in this crisis. We encourage you to find your role. Act now! We can get through this together.
Tools for Protecting People Experiencing Homelessness During COVID-19
As many of our partners asked, “how can one stay at home during COVID-19 when they have no home?” the Law Center has mobilized to create resources to help:
- The CDC adopted many of our recommendations urging communities not to sweep people from encampments but to house them instead; the new $4 billion in federal funding that we and our partners helped secure provides resources to do that.
- Now, we are working on getting this guidance and funding implemented, through a template letter and press release calling for communities to stop sweeps and place people into individual housing units in accordance with CDC guidance.
- Already, dozens of cities have stopped their sweeps and are moving people into housing, and the Law Center is tracking the best practices to share with policymakers and advocates.
- The Law Center also hosted a call with its Housing Not Handcuffs Justice Network to coordinate potential litigation to ensure the rights to adequate housing and healthcare for people experiencing homelessness during the crisis, and is actively engaging its pro bono network in research to support this.
The Law Center continues to advocate for stronger guidance from the CDC, additional funding in the next COVID-19 relief package, and resources for those who need them as quickly as possible. While we are attorneys, not doctors, it has long been true that housing is healthcare, and now, more than ever, we see that it is a matter of life and death, and we are proud to be saving the lives of both unhoused and housed Americans through our work.
Law Center in the Media
Street Sense Media (4/17/2020) A fire displaced 4 people from a homeless encampment last week. Residents believe it was intentional
Slate Magazine (4/16/2020) The Dawn of the Shout Drone
Santa Cruz Sentinel (4/14/2020) Santa Cruz homeless shelter provides COVID-19 spacing with mini-cottages
New York Times (4/12/2020) The Brother Killer
Spare Change News (4/10/2020) Progressives in Congress try to protect homeless, prevent more homelessness
Advocate (4/7/2020) This Pandemic Exposed the Extreme Vulnerability of LGBTQ Youth
Facing South (4/7/2020) Protecting the South’s homeless population from COVID-19
Observer Research Foundation (4/6/2020) Indiscriminate use of ‘defensive design’ may lead to social exclusion in urban public spaces
University Times (4/5/2020) Homelessness and public safety intertwined in Boyle Heights
Denver Post (4/4/2020) Denver isn’t doing enough to protect homeless population from coronavirus, advocates say
Nevada Current (4/1/2020) No vacancy: Southern Nevada struggles to house the homeless during health crisis
Las Vegas Review Journal (3/31/2020) Officials: Parking lot homeless shelter in Las Vegas was last resort
Daytona Times (3/27/2020) Housing For Homeless Is Next Step To Mitigating Coronavirus
Reuters (3/26/2020) FEATURE-Race for space to house vulnerable in coronavirus
Texas Observer (3/26/2020) COVID-19 Reveals the Urgent Need to House the Homeless
New York Times (3/26/2020) Congress Addresses Housing Crunch Amid Coronavirus Pandemic
Nevada Current (3/25/2020) Social distancing not an option for those experiencing homelessness
WHSV-TV (3/23/2020) CDC says ‘no’ to clearing encampments during coronavirus outbreak
Charleston Chronicle (3/20/2020) Housing is the Next Step to Mitigating Coronavirus
The Appeal (3/18/2020) As The Coronavirus Pandemic Continues, Homeless Communities Are Particularly Vulnerable
Newsmax (3/17/2020) Coronavirus Could Devastate Nation’s Homeless, Officials Fear
Changing Laws. Changing Lives.
The National Law Center on Homelessness & Poverty (the Law Center) is the only national organization dedicated solely to using the power of the law to end and prevent homelessness. With the support of a large network of pro bono lawyers, we address the immediate and long-term needs of people who are homeless or at risk through outreach and training, advocacy, impact litigation, and public education.