Disaster Planning for People Experiencing Homelessness

Post by: Kim Stephens

Homeless man in Anchorage, Alaska

Homeless man in Anchorage, Alaska (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I have heard the argument that disaster planning is geared toward middle class Americans and that not enough attention is paid to those who do not fit the stereotypical definition of the “norm.” A paper, titled Disaster Planning for People Experiencing Homelessness, which was published in March of 2009 by Sabrina Edgington, reminds us that planning is required for the entire community. The paper was written for the National Health Care for the Homeless Council and can be found here.

One of the key points in the paper is that coordination and relationship building between the emergency management community and the various homeless service providers is critical. This isn’t surprising since this type of collaboration is considered important with any group of individuals that require additional assistance during a disaster.   I do like, however,  how the author encourages these service providers to get to know their emergency managers and get involved with the planning process, versus simply indicting the EM community for not included them.

The author states in the executive summary:

This publication provides an overview of important issues to consider when planning for the needs of homeless people during disasters. Practical guidance is offered to local officials, emergency planners, homeless service providers and others who are involved in their community’s emergency planning process. The final part of this publication encourages Health Care for the Homeless providers and others involved in homeless service provision to participate in disaster planning efforts in their communities.

The following issues are addressed in this publication and described briefly below:

  • defining special needs populations
  • personal preparedness
  • communication
  • transportation and evacuation
  • sheltering
  • health status
  • transition to housing

If you have homeless people in your community it is worth a read. Thanks to @NLM_DIMRC for Tweeting about this paper.

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