Homeless populations present unique challenges as the economy reopens
NEW YORK, NY — As governments plan for emerging from the current Covid-19 lockdown, few have directly addressed homeless services in their guidelines for reopening. In light of the unique challenges that homeless populations face, a new Manhattan Institute report by senior fellow Stephen Eide assesses the response thus far and provides guidance for how to plan for reopening. According to Eide, the coronavirus has not hit the homeless as hard as some initially predicted, but careful planning is critical to restore a sense of normalcy and prepare for a possible second wave beginning next fall.
The report finds that during the current crisis homeless-services systems have not simply been put “on pause,” but transformed. Cities’ tolerance for the unsheltered homeless has increased, while shelter systems have expanded—including, most notably, the addition of thousands of hotel rooms for isolation and quarantine. As the economy begins to reopen, Eide emphasizes that homeless-services systems need to evaluate their response to Covid-19 and begin planning for a potential resurgence.
The report’s recommendations include:
- With the assistance of state governments, cities should give priority to public health in the design and operation of their homeless-services systems, focusing especially on developing a “test and trace” strategy for the homeless.
- Plan for coming austerity as state and local governments grapple with budgetary strain.
- Continue to emphasize social distancing in shelter systems, primarily through an expanded number of lower-density congregate facilities, while making modest use of isolation hotels.