Limiting the spread of COVID-19 among homeless Veterans


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Veterans who are homeless and at-risk of homelessness are vulnerable to COVID-19. To protect them and VA staff, VA personnel and grantees assigned to homelessness programs have implemented aggressive infection prevention techniques and response plans at all locations.

Because Veterans who are homeless or at risk of homelessness experience poorer health outcomes than individuals in stable housing, VA is working closely with other federal agencies to limit this vulnerable population’s potential to exposure.

Staff employ the following preventive methods based on guidance from CDC:

  • Frequent handwashing with soap and water for a minimum of 20 seconds.
  • Persistent use of 60% or greater alcohol-based hand sanitizers.
  • Maintaining a distance of six feet from other people.
  • Not shaking hands.
  • Not touching their eyes, nose, or mouth.

All Veterans and visitors to VA facilities are asked to adhere to the same prevention protocols as VA staff. In addition, VA staff have been instructed to stay home if they have any symptoms of COVID-19.

Protecting Veterans at VA Facilities

Each VA facility will create inpatient and outpatient zones for Veterans with possible or confirmed COVID-19. The inpatient and outpatient zones will serve as extensions of the health care continuum and isolate infected patients from uninfected patients.

VA is also identifying appropriate accommodations where Veterans who are homeless can receive treatment if they are symptomatic or screen positive for COVID-19 but do not need to be hospitalized. This precaution will reduce the possibility of transmitting the virus to uninfected people and inundating VA and non-VA medical facilities with patients who do not need hospital-level care.

In addition, VA is taking aggressive steps to prevent COVID-19 transmission by screening for the virus at VA health care facilities and implementing protective procedures for patients admitted to VA medical centers and residential programs.

Risk Factors

There are many factors that contribute to increased COVID-19 susceptibility among Veterans who are homeless and at-risk of homelessness.

Homelessness is a complex social problem with many causes. Historically, it has been inaccurately attributed to the personal failings and shortcomings of people who lack stable housing, which has left individuals experiencing homelessness—including Veterans—marginalized and stigmatized by their situation.

The stigma of homelessness carries hidden costs—poor living conditions, increased prevalence of chronic health issues, and other physical and mental health problems that make it challenging for individuals to exit homelessness.

VA is committed to protecting the health and safety of the nation’s most vulnerable Veterans—those who lack stable housing. Veterans who are homeless or at risk of homelessness are strongly encouraged to contact the National Call Center for Homeless Veterans at (877) 4AID-VET (877-424-3838) for homeless assistance. If Veterans do not have access to a phone or the internet, only then are they to visit their closest VA medical center without calling in advance.

VA Partner agencies

VA is working with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), United States Interagency Council on Homelessness (USICH), Health Resources & Services Administration (HRSA), Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS), and National Health Care for Homeless Council.

More COVID-19 resources

  • For interim guidance on how homeless service providers should plan for and respond to COVID-19, visit the USICH website.
  • Additional information on how to prepare your family in the event of a COVID-19 outbreak in your community can be found on the CDC website.

VA’s Homeless Programs Office assists Veterans in obtaining permanent and sustainable housing with access to high-quality health care and supportive services.

Author

VAntagePoint Contributor

— VAntage Point Contributors provide insight and perspective on a wide range of Veterans issues. If you’d like to contribute a story to VAntage Point, learn how you can submit a guest blog at http://www.blogs.va.gov/VAntage/how-to-submit-a-guest-post/

Comments

  1. Karla D Golay    

    I think this is all propaganda…..none of it is true. Homeless veterans should ignore anything VA says and go on and find other medical service providers who will take genuine attempts to help them. I’m a veteran myself. I know how awful the VA is. Whatever you do…DON’T go into a nursing home or any organization run by VA…stay well away.

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