Pre-disaster homeless populations present unique challenges

Pre-disaster homeless populations present unique challenges

A fundamental expectation for emergency planning is that our plans encompass all the people we serve. It is a laudable goal but we sometimes fall short when it comes to functional needs.

A 2011 lawsuit against the city of Los Angeles offers a good example. In that case, Federal Judge Consuelo B. Marshall held: “The Court finds that Plaintiffs are denied the benefits of the City’s emergency preparedness program because the City’s practice of failing to address the needs of individuals with disabilities discriminates against such individuals by denying them meaningful access to the City’s emergency preparedness program.” Another often overlooked group is people who are homeless prior to the disaster.

Pre-disaster homeless populations do present unique challenges and demand the commitment of resources that may be in high demand during a disaster. However, they are an extremely vulnerable part of the community that must be included in disaster planning. More …

People experiencing homelessness typically have limited resources and likely have past exposure to traumatic events. Therefore, they may be at higher risk of adverse physical and psychological reactions following a public health emergency or disaster. Trauma-informed approaches can help disaster responders effectively serve homeless individuals and families.

A trauma-informed approach to disaster response acknowledges past trauma and the current impact it may have on the lives of anyone receiving services or support. Sensitivity to trauma can improve communication between responders and the homeless and facilitate compliance with public health directives. More …