A Health Emergency On Top Of A Housing Emergency

exterior view of emergency shelter
Good Shepherd Shelter on Queen Street East. photo by Geo Swan is licensed under the public domain
Emergency shelters (this one in Toronto) were a common emergency response to the homelessness crisis well before the COVID pandemic.

Cynthia Puddu, who teaches at MacEwen University in Edmonton, Alberta, is calling for short and long term changes to housing and homelessness programs across North America.

Before COVID-19, housing for people with very low incomes and for those who had no housing at all was an issue of growing concern. The word “crisis” was getting bigger in housing word clouds. Some communities went so far as to declare homelessness an emergency. In some jurisdictions, where declaring an emergency facilitates access to other resources and powers, calling homelessness an emergency was more than an expression of concern.

COVID-19 has highlighted the significance of the housing emergency on a number of levels. Emergency responses to homelessness, for example, include emergency shelters and drop-in centres. These programs needed major revamping so that people using these programs could follow safe social distancing and personal hygiene practices. COVID emergency measures have included funding to provide temporary accommodation to people who had been sleeping outside and to people who were sick with, or recovering from, COVID.

The pandemic is also exposing the extent to which people are housed in precarious circumstances. This includes people who are living in violent relationships as well as people who struggle to pay for their housing. Eviction bans and emergency financial assistance are two temporary measures to reduce the number of people losing their housing.

In the article linked below, Puddu supports a range of short term measures to protect people who are at direct risk and indirectly, the community at large. She also has her eye on the precarious housing circumstances facing many people before the pandemic. Her long term measures address systemic issues which put so many people at risk. Read more at LSE US Centre: Homelessness is North America’s pandemic within a pandemic

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