The Coronavirus has caused a ripple effect of preventive measures that have left people that are homeless among those most at risk. These precautionary actions have caused some of the only supportive resources that these populations have to be limited or depleted completely.
Shelters have limited the amount of beds offered to reduce overcrowded shelters in an attempt to improve social distancing. Unfortunately, this means there is even less available shelter space for people who already faced shortages before the pandemic. People who are homeless are also experiencing the loss of support groups that once helped with mental stability.
Legal Council’s homeless advocates say some of the major challenges now facing our clients include
- The closure of public facilities, making it difficult for clients to communicate through public use of phones or computers.
- Finding adequate shelter in midst of restrictions and decrease of shelter beds.
- Increased difficulty to find food
- Increased fear, anxiety and lack of protection
Suggested reading: Health Justice in a Crisis – Ted and SSDI
While half of the nation’s homeless population lives with mental illness, this list of new challenges has the potential to worsen mental health symptoms. The increased uncertainty and increased probability to be put in high pressure situations can trigger people with mental illnesses, and puts their long-term mental stability at further risk.
When addressing solutions to combat the COVID-19 outbreak, policymakers should keep in mind people who are disproportionately impacted and who are often forgotten in decision-making, including people who are homeless.
Many of our clients who are homeless are unable to work, rely on Social Security benefits as their primary source of income, and don’t file income taxes. The Social Security Administration announced on April 15 that “supplemental security income recipients will receive automatic COVID-19 economic impact payments” without needing to file a basic tax return, although this announcement came after weeks of uncertainty that exacerbated the anxiety and fear many of our clients who are homeless face. Securing income can help ease the mind of some of these individuals, however the stability of their mental health during these uncertain times is still of concern. Access to affordable health care, stable housing, and other resources can help to alleviate many of the triggering conflicts affecting these populations.
Legal Council advocates are working around the clock to help clients who are homeless get the support and care they need to stay safe and healthy during this pandemic. For some clients, this means we help them connect to public benefits like food assistance or Social Security, and for others we assist in finding new shelter options when their go-to shelters are no longer available. We also continue to collaborate with our partners across Chicagoland in order to help as many people as possible.