Main findings

  • More than 200 homeless people had died by early August, but the full impact of COVID-19 can’t be known because there’s no centralized effort to track infections and deaths among the nation’s estimated 600,000 homeless population.
  • Four months after Congress rushed funding to help homeless people as part of the CARES Act, just 29% of the $4 billion allocated had reached those in need, leaving many on the street.
  • A Howard Center data analysis of poverty and homeless rates, along with doctor availability and shelter beds, revealed 43 counties whose homeless populations are most vulnerable to a COVID-19 outbreak.
  • Working homeless people often toil in frontline, low-wage jobs, putting them at heightened risk of becoming both victims and potential vectors of COVID-19.
  • Homeless people in rural areas are particularly susceptible to COVID-19 because they have even less access to shelter and health care than urban homeless people.
  • Workarounds developed during the pandemic to address the needs of homeless people have become silver linings that experts think may impact future programs and funding.