People Experiencing Homelessness Twice as Likely to Be Reinfected with COVID-19 Compared to their Housed Peers

Boston Medical Center researchers found that people experiencing homelessness and imminent risk of homelessness who have had COVID-19 are twice as likely to be reinfected than their housed peers regardless of age, gender, and comorbidities (other health or behavioral health conditions). Findings come atop earlier studies that demonstrated people experiencing homelessness have higher risks of contracting the disease for a first time. At the same time, they cannot take basic precautions against the coronavirus like masking, social distancing, quarantining, and testing and vaccinations. Their likelihood of having preexisting medical conditions means they will have poorer outcomes from the disease.

Even more reason to provide shelter to those in need.
For example, cold weather, drier air, and lack of sunlight weaken the immune system, leaving people vulnerable to infectious diseases. Low temperatures increase blood pressure and constrict arteries, which causes higher rates of heart attacks. And, predictably, people experiencing homelessness are more susceptible to exposure related conditions like frostbite, hypothermia, and foot immersion syndrome or “trench foot” (vividly named by WWI soldiers who developed the slogging through rainwater filled trenches).

Our emergency overnight shelters bring people experiencing homelessness in from the cold.
Since the pandemic broke, we’ve transitioned away from group shelter, which creates higher risks of COVID-19 and other respiratory disease transmission. Shelter is filled through a screening and wait list process. This year's emergency shelter is offered through leased motel rooms at a motel in southwest suburban Cook County.  BEDS Plus has also rented office space and a daily meal is served to clients.  For special populations such as families, transitional aged youth and justice involved clients, BEDS Plus has leased scattered apartment serving as crisis housing until a more permanent solution can be identified.  These interventions are currently replacing the rotating shelter model BEDS Plus facilitated for 32 years in the community. BEDS Plus is working to define the future of our shelter operations after the pandemic which will also include a 24-unit medical respite program which will be available in summer of 2022.

You can help us shelter people experiencing homelessness this winter here.

by Grant Suhs
Communications Specialist