According to the CDC, communities can help the homeless by putting preventative measures in place and having an emergency plan. Taking these steps can help communities best prepare for an outbreak and assist shelters:
- Identify a list of key contacts at local and state health departments.
- Identify a list of healthcare facilities and alternative care sites where clients with respiratory illness can seek housing and receive appropriate care.
- Include contingency plans for increased absenteeism caused by employee illness or by illness in employees' family members that require employees to stay home—these plans might include extending hours, cross-training current employees, or hiring temporary employees.
- Promote the practice of everyday preventive actions—this can be through using health messages and materials developed by credible public health sources.
- Provide COVID-19 prevention supplies at organizations such as soap, alcohol-based hand sanitizers that contain at least 60 percent alcohol, tissues, trash baskets, and disposable facemasks.
- Create a communication plan for distributing timely and accurate information during an outbreak—this could include automated text messaging or mailing lists.
- Identify and address potential language, cultural, and disability barriers associated with communicating COVID-19 information.
- Help counter stigma and discrimination in the community—speak out against negative behaviors and engage with stigmatized groups.
- People experiencing homelessness might be at increased risk of adverse mental health outcomes, particularly during outbreaks of infectious diseases so we have something in place to help them.
Like working as a community, individuals can provide assistance to homeless people via donations.
"We're seeing a great need for cleaning supplies, gloves, masks, hand sanitizer, water bottles, and similar items," Nan Roman told Newsweek. "People should consult the web and social media pages of the providers in their area to see if they have a wish list."
According to the HUD Exchange, shelters are advised to keep the following items in the event of a disaster:
- Personal Protective Equipment (PPE)—Gloves, surgical masks and goggles.
- Cleaning Supplies Large and small garbage bags and other waste disposal supplies.
- Thermometers and thermometer covers.
- Medications used to bring fevers down such as acetaminophen.
- Bags including re-sealable zip-top plastic bags.
- Disinfectants such as bleach, Lysol or other household disinfectants.
- Linens such as towels, blankets, sheets, hospital gowns, and robes.
- Dividers which can be sheets, curtains, twine and nails to rig up barriers for isolation of sick (plastic shower curtains could also be used for this purpose).
- Extra fluids and foods including juices, Gatorade or Gatorade instant mix (powder), Pedialyte, instant soups, Jell-O and teas.
For anyone with medical experience, Roman also emphasizes that volunteers are needed in shelters: "There's an important need for medical support right now," she explains. "Shelters might need people with relevant medical knowledge to advise and consult them during this time, so we encourage people to reach out if they have the expertise to lend."