Learn tips for providers to support people experiencing homelessness who are especially vulnerable during emergencies and disasters.
I had the privilege of interviewing homelessness service providers and emergency preparedness experts across the country as part of a research project to create professional preparedness tools. I visited providers in Houston, Texas, and New Orleans, Louisiana. I learned that people experiencing homelessness are especially vulnerable during emergencies and disasters. Based on my research work, I offer the following tips to providers:
Participate in Local Planning
People experiencing homelessness are best served when homelessness service providers build relationships and work with:
- Public health departments
- Local and state emergency management organizations
- National Volunteer Organizations Active in Disaster (NVOAD)
Consider Your Plan a Living Document
In addition to keeping partnerships alive and responsibilities fresh in the minds of key staff, plans need to be evaluated and updated regularly. Provider organizations may change in size and scope, with new staff being hired or with others changing jobs or positions.
Use Existing Resources
Several helpful resources are available free of charge through the National Health Care for the Homeless Council, including:
- No One Left Behind: Disaster Planning for People Experiencing Homelessness — 2010 (PPT | 803 KB)
- Disaster Planning for People Experiencing Homelessness — 2009 (PDF | 304 KB)
Acknowledge the Need for Flexibility
Emergencies and disasters are unplanned and providers can never truly be ready for everything. However, providers are better served when they proactively identify critical services and staffing that must be maintained during emergencies and disasters. Flexibility within this planning is important.
Be Heard and Understood
Using the right language counts. It’s important to reach out to people experiencing homelessness with actions to take and actions to avoid. It’s also important to use the correct terminology with government agencies to receive reimbursement.
We wish to acknowledge the courageous efforts of those who work to maintain critical services during emergencies and disasters.
Learn more about SAMHSA’s efforts to support communities and responders with behavioral health resources related to disaster preparedness, response, and recovery.
Access more behavioral health and homelessness resources.