Since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, unhoused people, uniquely vulnerable to the spread of disease, have borne the brunt of government inaction. Yet in some places where the government has taken action it came in the form of crackdowns and new ordinances that criminalize the status of living without a home—actions that contradict CDC guidance, exacerbate existing problems, and harm those most in need of help. Such actions continue to be at odds with the views of most voters, who want the government to play a bigger role in helping and protecting people experiencing homelessness, according to new polling.
Rather than criminalize homelessness, during the pandemic voters want investments in temporary housing, including by purchasing and repurposing unoccupied buildings. Polling from Data for Progress and The Justice Collaborative Institute underscores how voters see the risks to public health by neglecting a large unhoused population that is expected to grow as evictions loom, and how those risks are compounded by the criminal legal system. Among the findings:
- 72% of voters, including 62% of Republicans, support the government purchasing unoccupied buildings and repurposing them as temporary housing.
- Over three-quarters of voters want more government aid for people experiencing homelessness, including through temporary rental assistance (77% of respondents) and increased funding to non-profit housing providers (82% of respondents).
- 62% of voters want a temporary ban on towing vehicles in which people are living during the pandemic.
In March, a national poll by The Justice Collaborative Institute and Data for Progress showed overwhelming bipartisan support for measures to protect—and not punish—the unhoused, and that public opinion aligns with the views of experts that housing the homeless is proven to enhance public health and safety. This new polling, nine months later, shows that such support has not wavered.