On any given night in the United States, federal government data shows that over 500,000 people do not have a home, a count that dramatically underestimates the scope of the problem. The core problem has consistently been lack of access to affordable housing, brought on by bad policy and refusal to take common-sense, evidence-based approaches. The COVID-19 pandemic has brought this problem into focus, as neighborhood organizers take bold actions after governments refused to – like occupying vacant or unused homes – to provide the policy solution public health experts agree works best: housing the homeless.
Unhoused populations are always vulnerable to health risks and disease, a vulnerability now heightened by the coronavirus epidemic and the spread of COVID-19. People without homes more often come into contact with potentially infected surfaces and people, and those in emergency shelters must congregate in tight spaces and share facilities like showers and laundry.