Disaster and Emergency Preparedness Tips for Homelessness Service Providers
People experiencing homelessness are increasingly vulnerable during emergencies and disasters. The following tips are designed to assist homelessness service providers to address these vulnerabilities during an emergency or disaster (HRC).
As part of a research project to create disaster preparedness tools for homelessness service providers, I had the privilege of interviewing homelessness service providers and emergency preparedness experts across the country and visiting providers in Houston, Texas and New Orleans, Louisiana. People experiencing homelessness are especially vulnerable during emergencies and disasters. Based on my research work, I offer the following tips:
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, and National Volunteer Organizations Active in Disaster groups (NVOAD).
Consider your plan a living document: Provider organizations change in size and scope. New staff is hired, and people change jobs and positions within organizations. In addition to keeping partnerships alive and responsibilities fresh in the minds of key staff, plans need to be evaluated and updated regularly.
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 and Disaster Planning for People Experiencing Homelessness.
Acknowledge the need for flexibility: Emergencies and disasters are unplanned and providers can never be truly ready for everything. However, providers are better served when they proactively identify critical services and staffing needs to 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.
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