With the novel coronavirus now declared a national emergency, The Salvation Army has significantly increased its preparation for an impending outbreak in the United States and has ramped up efforts to mitigate the spread of the virus, especially among the homeless and other vulnerable populations.
With one in six people living in poverty and over 550,000 people counted as homeless, a disproportionate number of Americans impacted by this outbreak possibly will be lower-income or experiencing homelessness. Although people experiencing homelessness can be more isolated, they also tend to have chronic medical issues and severely lack access to proper hygiene, updated information, medical resources, and care.
In our residential facilities, close living conditions mean infectious disease can easily spread among residents. Additional cleaning throughout the day, with elevated focus on high-traffic areas, and sanitation supplies are part of every location’s infectious-disease protocol. If a resident or staff member gets sick, isolation/quarantine areas will be established, additional healthcare will be needed, and staff needs will increase.
Several industries are at risk of financial hardship, such as travel and hospitality. We anticipate a significant increase in emergency assistance for low-wage employees who may be temporarily laid off due to the coronavirus. Types of support include rent/mortgage, utility, and food assistance.
Ensuring the safety of those who depend on The Salvation Army’s programs and services, along with the safety of staff and volunteers, is of utmost priority. We are working with health officials at the local, state, and federal levels – including participating in situation-awareness calls with federal partners such as FEMA, CDC, DHS, and HHS. Hygiene and prevention guidance in accordance with recommendations from CDC is being used and shared with staff, volunteers, and program participants. Additional protocols are being formed quickly across the U.S. should further restrictions be placed on our communities.