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NLIHC Releases Report on Improving FEMA Programs to House People Experiencing Homelessness during the Pandemic

NLIHC released on November 12 a new report, “Housing is Healthcare: Challenges, Best Practices, and Policy Recommendations to Improve FEMA Programs to House People Experiencing Homelessness in Non-Congregate Shelters During the Pandemic.” The brief report documents the hurdles state and local governments and homeless service providers face when using FEMA Public Assistance (PA) funds to house people experiencing homelessness in hotels during the pandemic. The report also highlights success stories and opportunities to apply lessons learned to a future pandemic or the next wave of this one.


The report is released during a time when coronavirus cases are surging, winter is approaching, and the end-of-year expiration of the federal eviction moratorium draws nearer. The confluence of a looming eviction crisis, colder temperatures, and alarming increases in coronavirus cases will further strain our nation’s overstretched homeless shelter system and put people experiencing homelessness and their communities at greater risk of contracting and spreading the virus. Congress and FEMA must take urgent action to save lives and provide needed resources to prevent outbreaks of coronavirus among people experiencing homelessness and other individuals in congregate settings. 

The pandemic has made it abundantly clear that housing is healthcare. People experiencing homelessness are highly vulnerable to contracting and spreading the disease. People with disabilities who live in congregate settings have suffered high rates of severe illness and death from COVID-19. For the coronavirus pandemic, FEMA determined that certain non-congregate sheltering costs will be reimbursable under the PA program, allowing state and local officials to request reimbursement for moving people experiencing homelessness to non-congregate settings where they can safely isolate and quarantine.

Homeless service providers and community leaders have used FEMA PA funds to address the urgent needs of people experiencing homelessness. NLIHC spoke with partners across the country to learn about the challenges they faced in utilizing FEMA PA to house people without homes in hotels and the strategies they employed to overcome these barriers. While some of the issues raised by our partners mirror persistent barriers to using FEMA resources in past disasters, others reflect new challenges resulting from the unprecedented nature of using federal funds for this purpose.

Read the report at: