(WASHINGTON, D.C.) - Congressman Jamie Raskin (MD-08) today joined Congressman Jerry McNerney (CA-09) and 86 colleagues in pressing Trump Administration agency heads for details about how their agencies are working to ensure the proper care of America’s homeless population during the COVID-19 pandemic. In addition, the letter also sought detailed information on what steps the Administration is taking to prevent homelessness among current residents and subsidized housing recipients.
In letters sent to Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) Secretary Ben Carson, Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Alex Azar, and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Director Robert Redfield, the Members wrote: “Individuals experiencing homelessness are especially vulnerable to infection and complications from the spread of COVID-19. These individuals already lack ready access to hygiene facilities and permanent shelter, and many lack adequate health care. Moreover, they possess greater barriers to following public health guidance for dealing with this virus, such as washing their hands often, staying at home, and avoiding close physical interactions with others.”
The letter went on to specifically request information regarding:
- What efforts are being made to coordinate directly with state and local entities to communicate the risk of COVID-19 to homeless individuals, as well as how to prevent contracting and transmitting the virus?
- What are these agencies doing to assist local government and community nonprofit homeless service providers in making available hygienic services to homeless individuals?
- What guidance and resources are being provided to homeless individuals regarding self-isolation?
- What resources are these agencies directly providing to protect the health and safety of health care workers and community volunteers serving homeless individuals?
- What mental health services are being provided to homeless individuals?
- What steps are these agencies taking to ensure the safety of homeless individuals who have been discharged from medical care facilities in order to make room for COVID-19 treatment?
- What efforts are being made to coordinate directly with state and local entities to ensure that shelters serving homeless individuals have the food supplies that they need?
- What actions are these agencies taking to directly assist local government and community nonprofit homeless service providers that focus on serving homeless youth?
- What outreach is the Department of Housing and Urban Development conducting to inform current residents—many of whom may be experiencing a change in job status and an associated loss of income—of the need to update any changes regarding their income so they may potentially qualify for increased housing assistance?
According to a 2018 HUD report, there are an estimated 553,000 homeless in the United States on any given night.
The Members continued: “These are unprecedented times and your agencies are working diligently to respond to this outbreak, but it is imperative that we ensure the most vulnerable Americans are not forgotten by the federal government and receive its direct support."
A full copy of the letter can be found here.