Homelessness and COVID-19
The COVID-19 pandemic has deepened and exacerbated existing needs, gaps, and inequities within marginalized communities. This is impacting employment, income security, housing security, family basic needs, mental health, healthcare access, and safety. We have witnessed an immediate increase in the number of persons requesting financial assistance and emergency funds to prevent eviction due to economic hardship, job loss, and displacement. We are also witnessing an elevated and urgent need for mental health and crisis supports as isolation and economic insecurity heighten anxiety, depression, and the risk of substance abuse. Additionally, we’ve seen increasing challenges in delivering services.
Organizations struggle to reach the most marginalized, which often compound trauma with bias and racism. People are in need of multiple services, but do not know where to go due to a lack of provider collaboration, and collaborations fail to demonstrate an action-based analysis of interpersonal, cultural, and systemic racism. Urban Triage, Inc. is positioned to address the challenge of the lack of provider collaboration as a result of spearheading the Dane County Collaboration of Black Service Providers.
Our COVID-19 efforts center low-income, non-conforming, non-white community members residing across Greater Madison / Dane County. This includes families, children, LGBTQIA, elderly, those differently abled, and other vulnerable members of our community. Our target population is low-income communities under quarantine who are unable to work, have reduced hours, or have been laid off and are struggling and unable to provide the basic necessities for their families.
The COVID-19 outbreak has put a spotlight on economic inequalities and a fragile social safety net that leaves vulnerable communities to bear the economic brunt of the crisis. While the virus infects people regardless of wealth, poor people in Dane County are most affected due to long-standing segregation by income and race, reduced economic mobility, and the high cost of medical care. Low-income communities are more likely to be exposed to the virus due to housing insecurities and are most likely to suffer higher mortality rates and suffer economically.
Research has shown that low income is associated with higher rates of chronic health conditions such as diabetes and heart disease; factors that increase vulnerability to COVID-19. In times of economic crisis, these vulnerabilities are more pronounced for marginalized groups – identified by race, gender, and immigration status. In addition, low-income jobs in fields like retail, hospitality, childcare, and other areas are not available to be performed remotely, and the majority do not offer paid sick leave or health insurance creating compounded stress and increased need for supportive services. Additionally, this affects their ability to be present for their children and their families; thus, increasing the possibility of child abuse and domestic violence. Urban Triage, Inc. will be able to lessen the stress for those who are too often forgotten by sharing resources and services creating the opportunity for less violence and increased access points for support.
Our Homeless Outreach Program is designed to be the initial contact point for many experiencing homelessness and / or housing insecurity in the City of Madison and the Dane County area. We employ a team of 10 Outreach Specialists who go out into the community three times per week to locate, identify, and build relationships with those who are experiencing homelessness and / or housing insecurity to engage them for the purpose of providing immediate support, intervention, and connections with homeless assistance programs and / or mainstream social services and housing programs, and help guide them through the housing process.