Additional Coronavirus Updates - Monday, April 20, 2020

The NLIHC-led Disaster Housing Recovery Coalition (DHRC) will continue to advocate for a broad array of resources and protections to respond to the COVID-19 pandemic, including emergency rental assistance and eviction prevention assistance, a national moratorium on evictions and foreclosures, and emergency funds for homelessness service providers, housing authorities, and housing providers, among other recommendations. For more information, see DHRC’s full list of recommendations, which will continue to be expanded and refined. NLIHC has also compiled a list of regulatory recommendations.

NLIHC is also maintaining a COVID-19/Housing and Homelessness News and Resource page here.

National Updates  


Congress is extending its recess until May 4 to avoid transmitting coronavirus and practice social distancing.


FEMA Administrator Peter T. Gaynor called for state and local emergency managers to continue to focus on conserving scarce personal protective equipment, strengthening the supply chain, and fully utilizing federal medical staff. Housing was not mentioned.

The administration signed Major Disaster Declarations for Wyoming, Alaska, Idaho, and Vermont to total 50 states and 3 territories under a Major Disaster Declaration for COVID-19. See the full list here.

FEMA released a new policy permitting Public Assistance Program funding to be used for the purchase and distribution of food. FEMA will be able to reimburse preparation, procurement, and distribution of food to high risk individuals staying in their homes.

Federal Housing Finance Administration

The Federal Housing Finance Agency (FHFA) and the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) announced a Borrower Protection Program, a new initiative that enables FHFA and CFBG to share servicing information to protect borrowers during the COVID-19 pandemic.


HUD Secretary Ben Carson sat down with the Daily Caller to talk about the federal government’s COVID-19 response and new housing initiatives. Among other things, the secretary talked about his plan to force individuals experiencing homelessness into “structures” built on government-owned land in order to “take care of their mental health issues and their addiction issues and set them on a pathway towards self-sufficiency.”

HUD’s Office of Special Needs Assistance Programs (SNAPS) invites homeless assistance providers and their partners to participate in weekly Office Hours to discuss COVID-19 planning and response on Fridays from 2:30 - 4:00 p.m. ET. 

HUD released a set of statutory and regulatory waivers for the Public Housing, Housing Choice Voucher, Indian Housing Block Grant Program, Public Housing Assessment System and Section Eight Management Assessment Program. The waivers allow PHA’s and Tribal Designated Housing Agencies to forego certain HUD requirements to slow the spread of COVID-19.

HUD has also implemented a series of waivers for the Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) program, allowing for greater flexibility in how those funds are administered and able to be used. The guidance details the process and use of the first $2 billion allocation of CDBG funding approved by the CARES Act.


NLIHC is tracking state and local emergency rental assistance programs, including those that are already implemented or are being considered. This list will be updated periodically.

NLIHC is providing new opportunities for local, state, and national organizations to dive deeper into the critical issues facing their communities during the coronavirus pandemic. We invite you to continue to participate in our standing weekly national calls and working groups, as well as the new working groups we have created to address emerging issues. Learn more and register for the working groups here.

The Center on Budget and Policy Priorities’ “Get It Back” campaign released its guide to economic impact payments for advocates. This guide will continue to be updated.

The NAACP has set up a coronavirus page listing information, FAQs and links to reports of discrimination experienced during the pandemic.

The Urban Institute’s Urban Wire Blog argues it is time to reinforce the housing safety net by adopting universal vouchers for low-income renters.

The National Alliance to End Homelessness is publishing its COVID-19 webinar series on its website. The latest topic dives into FEMA’s role in noncongregate sheltering. 


Former HUD secretary and 2020 presidential candidate Julian Castro outlined his vision for the kinds of bold, systemic housing reforms needed to solve the U.S. housing affordability crisis and to prevent a COVID-19 housing catastrophe.

Despite a federal ban, landlords of federally assisted properties are still moving to evict people during the pandemic. Landlords in at least four states have violated the eviction ban passed by Congress last month, ProPublica’s review of records shows, moving to throw more than a hundred people out of their homes.

Time Magazine covers how renters are facing eviction despite moratoriums on evictions in more than 30 states and dozens of cities.

Homeless shelters across the country are facing volunteer shortages and increased operating costs as they search for ways to respond to the deadly coronavirus outbreak while continuing to take in residents. 

The novel coronavirus pandemic will result in an additional 1.5 million U.S. households becoming extremely low-income, said NLIHC President and CEO Diane Yentel​ on a recent National League of Cities (NLC) webinar​. Before the pandemic, there were over 500,000 people without homes and a shortage of 7 million homes affordable and available to the lowest-income families. Extremely low-income renters are disproportionately people of color, and cities are already seeing that demographic disproportionately affected by the coronavirus.

NextCity reports on “How Covid-19 is Changing Cities’ Approach to Homelessness.” The COVID-19 outbreak is making cities better understand the issues faced by individuals experiencing homelessness and revealing the many shortcomings of cities’ services for this population.  

Homeless shelters are at greater risk of outbreaks because of dangerous overcrowding, but local officials and residents in a handful communities have resisted using vacant hotels to provide safe housing with appropriate distancing to individuals experiencing homelessness.

David A. Super, a professor of law at Georgetown Law, writes in an opinion piece in The Hill about how the COVID-19 crisis highlights the mistreatment of the poor. He writes “Over the past half century, the prevalence of dilapidated housing has declined but the incidence of over-crowding has increased. Many low-income people are being asked to shelter in place in housing they share with many other people. The close quarters are reportedly leading to a sharp increase in domestic violence. And if one breaks isolation to seek work, all may become infected.”

VICE examines FEMA’s response to Hurricane Harvey as an example of how the U.S. disaster relief system is broken. Low-income disaster survivors in Southeast Texas were denied assistance at a much higher rate than those of higher incomes – leading to an inadequate and unequal recovery.  

Early data from jurisdictions across the country find that the novel coronavirus is affecting - and killing - Black Americans at a disproportionately high rate compared to white Americans. A key factor: racial disparities in housing put Blacks at much greater risk for contracting illnesses like COVID-19.

State News

NLIHC provides a list of local eviction and foreclosure moratoriums here.


Thrive Alabama and Huntsville Hospital are providing free COVID-19 testing to individuals experiencing homelessness. To ensure they get their test results back, medical staff are directly working with groups who serve Huntsville's homeless population and using tactics such as photographs to help ensure people get their results.


In Phoenix, despite the heightened risk in encampments, local governments have not yet taken up a recommendation from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to encourage people to set up tents with at least 12-by-12-feet of space per individual.

In Phoenix, Circle The City, a community health nonprofit, has turned the employee parking lot into a temporary medical camp to care for individuals experiencing homelessness who may test positive for COVID-19.


East Bay service providers are scrambling to avoid a repeat of what happened in San Francisco, where officials were unable to avoid an outbreak of COVID-19 from occurring at one the city’s largest homeless shelters.

None of the 93 homeless people who tested positive for the coronavirus in San Francisco’s largest shelter showed serious symptoms of the disease, lending urgency to the need for widespread public testing and emphasizing the importance of “contact investigations” the city is now ramping up.

The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs set up L.A.'s first temporary tent city in four decades. The tent city is for veterans without homes — 25 initially, with a plan to expand to 50 as needed — so they can wait out the COVID-19 crisis by sheltering in place and social distancing in their own tents.

More than 90 residents and 10 staff members at San Francisco’s largest homeless shelter have tested positive for coronavirus. The outbreak at the MSC South Shelter is believed to be the largest reported outbreak in a single shelter in the country. The spike caused a 12% surge in positive cases in the city. Advocates say the outbreak was both predictable and preventable amid massive policy failures.

In San Francisco, doctors face difficult choices as the number of individuals experiencing homelessness with COVID-19 increases. It is difficult to release homeless patients from the hospital to anywhere other than the streets: shelters stopped admitting new people over well-founded concerns about the risk of a COVID-19 outbreak among residents, eliminating precious shelter beds in a city with only 1,200 of them to serve 7,600 adults without homes.


Governor Jared Polis has issued an open letter to Colorado hotels and motels asking them to temporarily house people without homes. 

In Denver’s homeless shelters, residents find it impossible to stay six feet apart from one another. To address this issue, Denver started bussing men out of cramped shelters to a temporary facility where up to 600 individuals will sleep on cots spaced at least six-feet by 10-feet apart. 


New Haven Mayor Justin Elicker’s recent decision to open a 75-bed facility at Career High School to accommodate homeless people infected with COVID-19 was a first step to fighting the spread. But the repeated failure of negotiations to provide shelter in hotels to those ousted from another emergency shelters, giving them a safe place to physically distance, has left individuals experiencing homelessess in New Haven with 140 fewer available spaces for sheltering.


Dozens of Sarasota residents without homes are demanding that city and county officials make good on their promise to make special accommodations for them during the coronavirus pandemic. Local governments have done little to act on a contingency plan for the area’s homeless population since the coronavirus pandemic shuttered many of the venues they use every day, including parks, libraries, and the city’s day shelter.

Jamie Ross of the Florida Housing Coalition, an NLIHC state partner, wrote an op-ed in the South Florida Sun Sentinel regarding the importance of protecting the Sadowski Housing Trust Fund during the COVID-19 pandemic.


The Savannah Homeless Authority has partnered with the City of Savannah and Chatham Emergency Management Agency to deliver meals-ready-to-eat, or MRE’s, to the city’s more than 35 homeless camps.

Atlanta is struggling to support the needs of its homeless population during the COVID-19 outbreak as tent cities appear downtown and hundreds of people without homes sleep at the Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport. City leaders are struggling with what to do about a growing number of homeless people seeking shelter at Atlanta’s airport during the coronavirus epidemic. Several homeless shelters have closed and left the homeless community with fewer options. 


The rooms in the Kona Holiday Inn Express are now serving as isolation units for high-risk seniors, respectfully known as kupuna, who are experiencing homelessness, amid stay-at-home orders. 1,324 people on Hawaiʻi Island received homeless services last year. At least 7% of those were kupuna.


Approximately 83,000 Chicagoans who lost their jobs or found their paychecks scaled back because of the coronavirus pandemic applied for $1,000 grants to help them pay their rent or mortgages. Mayor Lori Lightfoot announced she was providing 2,000 grants with $2 million from the city’s Affordable Housing Opportunity Fund, which is funded by the fees paid by developers under the Affordable Requirements Ordinance. The overwhelming demand for the grants will result in fewer than 2.5% of applicants receiving them.

The Lake County Board voted to set aside $100,000 to cover emergency shelter expenses incurred because of the health crisis. The money will come from a fund from video gambling revenue that usually bankrolls grants for mental health programs. 

In Lake County, shelter sites have closed, and shelter providers are instead housing clients individually in hotels and motels. About 100 clients are being sheltered in this manner. The agency is using vouchers to cover the costs, but expenses are mounting rapidly.

Chicago Mayor Lightfoot is making investments to support people experiencing homelessness, and the city of Chicago recently opened five new shelters. This is in addition to $8 million the state has put aside to help get people experiencing homelessness off the streets and out of crowded shelters. It is estimated that more than 1,200 people experiencing homelessness are still on the streets of Chicago. 

Twelve people at a Chicago-funded shelter have tested positive for the coronavirus, according to the city’s Department of Family and Support Services. The cases are among staff and residents in a facility that provides medical care for people who are discharged from hospitals and have no homes.

The state of Illinois is moving the approximately 200 residents of the Aurora homeless shelter into a suburban hotel in an attempt to contain the outbreak. The second largest homeless shelter in the state, it will be the first to make such a move and will likely “serve as a model” as other shelters in Illinois make similar transfers.


Indiana’s health departments have been closely monitoring the needs of residents without homes, and with IU Health Ball Memorial Hospital only having so many rooms for COVID-19 patients, the state has established a new facility to prevent the healthcare system from being overwhelmed. The Safe Recovery Site, managed by Bridges Community Services, will act as an emergency isolation and quarantine facility for up to 60 people experiencing homelessness. 


The City Council of Columbia has issued a request for proposals for an outside entity to provide sanctioned homeless encampment services at a City of Columbia-provided property.


In New Orleans, while some property owners are working with tenants who cannot pay their rents, other landlords are threatening eviction and using other tactics to bully tenants.

Housing nearly 200 people without homes in New Orleans, many struggling with mental illness and substance abuse, in a single hotel has been an enormous challenge. But in addition to providing safety and stability in the face of the COVID-19 outbreak, many individuals experiencing homelessness are seeing a range of positive benefits. 


In Boston, over 140 individuals without homes at The Pine Street Inn shelter tested positive for COVID-19 without showing any symptoms. The asymptomatic individuals were confirmed to have the virus following a small cluster of cases prompted the testing of 397 people at the shelter. 

As advocates for people without homes in Boston assist those who are COVID-19 positive and prepare for more cases, they face challenges unique to the population they are serving. Jim O’Connell, president of Boston Health Care for the Homeless, called it a “tricky” situation when people test positive for the virus but are not showing symptoms.

A recent round of coronavirus testing in Boston's homeless population is raising concerns about asymptomatic spread of the coronavirus. Both advocates and public officials are calling for comprehensive testing in the homeless community.

To prepare for an expected surge in coronavirus cases this month, Boston leaders are setting up a new medical center for COVID-19 patients at the Boston convention center. The facility will have 1,000 beds, six acute care suites, 52 nurse stations, 48 bathroom facilities, and a physical therapy suite, according to the city. Half of the beds will be reserved for people experiencing homelessness who have “tested positive for the virus and need care, but not full hospitalization,” city officials wrote.

In Salem, shelters and homes for those affected by coronavirus are just about ready at Salem State University and the Salem High School field house. Meanwhile, city officials are also looking for property owners with vacant apartments to make the spaces available to those in need.


In Saginaw, the Saginaw Diocese’s Center for Ministry will become an emergency shelter for homeless individuals during the COVID-19 pandemic. The center will support homeless individuals who have tested positive for COVID-19 but do not need hospitalization, as well as those who may have been exposed to it and need to self-isolate.

In response to the pandemic, Detroit funded the reopening of a vacant Detroit Rescue Mission Ministries building to serve as shelter for individuals without homes. Another shelter was temporarily moved to an undisclosed, idled recreation center to give the organization room to ensure safe social distancing.

In Battle Creek, some veterans have been asked to find new homes after the Battle Creek VA Medical Center asked them to move out of transitional residences to prevent the spread of COVID-19. The Battle Creek VA Medical Center offered two houses as transitional residences for veterans with mental illnesses who are at risk of being homeless.


County officials across Minnesota are working to move individuals without homes at high risk for COVID-19 into hotels to stop the spread of the disease. Already, Hennepin County has helped move about 260 people into three hotels, and St. Louis County in northern Minnesota is securing another 90 hotel rooms. These efforts have eased dangerous crowding in emergency shelters while preventing a broader outbreak among the homeless community. 

Hennepin County and Ramsey County have seen an increases in the numbers of individuals experiencing homelessness who have been isolated with symptoms. Meanwhile, those in charge of caring for those experiencing homelessness are hoping more COVID-19 tests could help keep things contained - but there are still few tests to be had. 

Around 19,600 Minnesotans are experiencing homelessness. Advocates are working to ensure there are more single-space options like hotels or dorm rooms, more washing stations, and, if needed, encampments with proper spacing


Service providers across Montana say the double stigma of homelessness and COVID-19 makes finding safe shelter difficult as businesses are not willing to shoulder the risk. In Billings, the Metrapark Pavilion Center will offer 30-50 spaces for area people awaiting test results or in need of isolation 


Las Vegas has established a new “isolation and quarantine complex” for people experiencing homelessness, erected in the same city-owned parking lot where people without homes slept on the ground. The complex consists out of a series of tents for people who are sick with coronavirus, but are not sick enough to go to the hospital.

Las Vegas will  provide temporary shelter, monitoring, and treatment for as many as 500 homeless coronavirus patients in need of quarantine or isolation but not hospitalization. The $6 million project is not a walk-up homeless shelter, said Lisa Morris-Hibbler, city community services chief and complex director. It will accept ambulance deliveries of people who have no place to live but have been exposed to the coronavirus and show symptoms such as cough or fever.

New York

In New York City, some inmates released from Rikers Island to control the outbreak in the jail have wound up in shelters. And with the outdoor safety net falling apart - few pedestrians from whom to solicit contributions; public bathrooms shut; many soup kitchens closed for lack of food and volunteers - the nightly shelter population has consistently reached levels seen only a few times in the last decade, and usually only on the most frigid nights of winter.

At least 26 people without homes among the 421 confirmed to have COVID-19 in New York City have died. To combat the outbreak among the homeless population, Mayor Bill de Blasio announced new measures to better protect the thousands of people without homes in the city for whom social distancing is extremely difficult.

The coronavirus is wreaking havoc on New York City's public housing system, where the housing authority oversees approximately 174,000 apartments. Many public housing tenants have multiple chronic medical conditions and lack a primary care physician, putting them at high risk for COVID-19. 

Residents at a city homeless shelter on Randall’s Island are concerned about what they say are unsanitary living conditions, putting residents at high risk of contracting COVID-19. Former resident Alfonzo Forney, 41, is circulating a petition signed by dozens who live in the shelter demanding new management.

New York City Housing Authority’s 2,200 densely populated buildings are being challenged to contain the outbreak of COVID-19. Already in deep need of maintenance and repairs, many of the buildings are not being regularly cleaned or disinfected. 

Michael Che, a Saturday Night Live comedian, shared an open letter revealing that he lost his grandmother to complications from COVID-19, and he announced that, in her honor, he will be paying the rent for all the units her New York City Housing Authority (NYCHA) building for a month. “It’s crazy to me that residents of public housing are still expected to pay their rent when so many New Yorkers can’t even work.” 

New Jersey

Atlantic City is exploring options to help find safe and supportive housing for individuals who are homeless and have tested positive for COVID-19. Bob Franklin, director of development at the Atlantic City Rescue Mission, said the mission was near capacity at 300, and was also stepping up its food program for the non-homeless poor. Recent estimates of the homeless population in the county have exceeded 400.


Dayton-area homeless shelters have received a boost in funding from an Ohio organization's pandemic emergency fund. The Coalition on Homelessness and Housing in Ohio (COHHIO) issued grants totaling nearly $500,000 to help local homeless shelters limit the spread of coronavirus among their residents, staff and broader community.

Agencies like COHHIO have taken a leading role in prioritizing the needs of the homeless community, raising necessary funding and public awareness of the issue. Ohio has about 300 homeless shelters which house more than 10,000 people.

Lutheran Metropolitan Ministries helps roughly 400 individuals on a daily basis who suffer from homelessness, and is seeking new options amid the COVID-19 outbreak. Acting CEO Maria Foschia says the organization started by reaching out to area hotels for additional shelter space.  So far, three area hotels agreed to provide shelter, and 80 men and 45 women have been housed. 


New temporary shelter sites for the unhoused are opening this week in Eugene. Small groups of people can stay in tents or vehicles with appropriate social distancing. All shelter sites are staffed and have food and water supplies

Puerto Rico

Puerto Rico Governor Wanda Vázquez sent a letter to Congress requesting federal funding for HUD’s Continuum of Care (CoC) program so that the U.S. citizens in Puerto Rico without homes can have access to adequate shelter and avoid spreading COVID-19 throughout the community.


South Burlington has set up campers as housing for individuals who are homeless to help prevent the spread of coronavirus. In addition, the city is sheltering at-risk individuals in hotels.  


Approximately, 11,100 people in the Seattle area do not have homes, and, in many cases, access to basic hygiene services. City and county efforts have focused on three areas: opening new overnight shelters to decrease crowding in existing shelters, creating isolation, quarantine and recovery units, and installing additional hygiene services for people living outside.

West Virginia

In Fairmont, the United Way and the city's homelessness task force are working to improve the availability of safe, basic hygiene for individuals experiencing homelessness. The city has established three portable restrooms and is on a waitlist for hand-washing stations. 

In Morgantown, a task force appointed to support people experiencing homelessness during the COVID-19 crisis quickly came up with a plan to provide safe housing in a motel. Chief Program Officer of the West Virginia Coalition to End Homelessness Rachel Coen says, “The biggest thing was having the leadership of our health department, both hospitals and the county commission.”

State and Local Guidance and Research


Chicago Illinois Heartland Alliance: COVID Homeless Screener with Temperature and Screening Supply List