This article originally appeared on the blog of Heretic, the magazine of We Are Libertarians.
There are lots of ways for us to help our friends, neighbors, and communities during the difficult challenges that for many have already begun and will likely persist for the next several weeks, or even months. In our Getting Through COVID-19, Together series, we will look at specific ways to do just that.
(If you would like to contribute to this series, please let us know at firstname.lastname@example.org, or message us on Facebook.)
Sheltering the Homeless
The homeless are already an extremely at-risk demographic for this plague. Many have compromised immune systems. Many have other pre-existing conditions. Due to warrants, mental health issues, drug-use, and lack of resources, many will not seek treatment even if they begin to show symptoms of the virus. Homeless individuals also spend a surprising amount of time in dense groups – “homeless camps” are often densely packed areas by necessity, and time spent in transit stations and other public areas results in a an increased risk of exposure.
Additionally, many homeless individuals with jobs are losing them at a rate higher than the rest of us. Working banquets or as kitchen staff at restaurants are both extremely common jobs for this group of people, but those have quickly dried-up. And for those who still have jobs, the shutdown of public transit has made getting to and from work near-impossible.
On top of all of this, a huge share of the homeless shelters these members of our communities rely on are shutting down. Many parts of the country have put restrictions on gatherings of more than 10 people, which means that even the shelters that are remaining open can only shelter 8 or 9 homeless (plus 1 or 2 volunteers) rather than 40, 50, 60+ homeless individuals.
Thankfully, the coronavirus pandemic began raging through most of America after the bitterly-cold months of winter had passed, and that will make the next few weeks or months more tolerable for the homeless members of our communities. But there are still going to be nights below-freezing, weeks of down pour, and in some areas even snow.
In our effort to practice social-distancing, we cannot let our communities forget our homeless brothers and sisters. So what can we do about this?
Those of us who are people of faith can work with our community leaders to set up our churches, temples, mosques, synagogues, etc. as temporary homeless shelters on below-freezing nights.
We can petition our county and municipal governments to (at least) temporarily ease up on the permits required to operate these shelters.
We can continue to donate food and clothing to local organizations that gather and distribute supplies to the homless and impoverished.
We can help our newly out-of-work neighbors with rent, bills, groceries, etc. to ensure that the homeless population doesn’t increase.
There are surly countless other ways to help address this issue, and if you have more ideas I’d love to hear them.