USICH Releases Delta Guidance for Protecting People Experiencing Homelessness

August 17, 2021
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The U.S. Interagency Council on Homelessness (USICH) released new CDC-informed guidance to help communities minimize the spread and impact of the Delta variant of COVID-19 among people experiencing homelessness.

The Delta variant is spreading rapidly, particularly in places with low vaccination rates and among unvaccinated people; and people experiencing homelessness, especially those living in encampments or shelters, are particularly vulnerable to infectious diseases.

These recommendations should be implemented immediately to save lives,” said USICH Interim Executive Director Anthony Love. “It’s our duty, and in the public’s best interest, to protect vulnerable people. There’s perhaps nothing more vulnerable than not having a home to consider a safe space from an airborne disease that’s killed more than 600,000 Americans in roughly a year and become a leading cause of death.”

The new guidance, "The Delta Variant: 5 Ways Communities Can Protect People Experiencing Homelessness,” was informed by CDC guidance and developed in coordination with the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), the National Health Care for the Homeless Council (NHCHC), and the National Alliance to End Homelessness (NAEH). It offers the following recommendations: 

  • Encourage and support vaccinations. 
  • Strengthen routine testing, especially in congregate facilities. 
  • Continue to use COVID-specific non-congregate shelter (NCS) for people who test positive, were exposed, or are at high risk of severe illness or death. 
  • Maintain or re-institute COVID-19 mitigation protocols. 
  • Continue to rehouse as many people as possible. 

While it’s important for all homeless services staff, volunteers, and clients to get vaccinated as soon as possible, USICH stresses that being fully vaccinated should not be treated as a prerequisite to receive shelter, housing, or services; and regardless of vaccination status, all homeless services staff, volunteers, and clients should continue wearing masks and physically distancing.

The American Rescue Plan (ARP) provides many ways to fund these recommendations. To learn how to leverage those resources, read USICH's recently-released guide to the ARP funding that impacts people experiencing homelessness. In recent weeks, for instance, HHS announced that it would use the American Rescue Plan to invest an additional $80 million in state and local testing and mitigation for homeless encampments and shelters.

For more COVID guidance and resources, click here.

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