Shelter-in-place orders throughout the US have forced millions of students and employees to stay at home. Unfortunately, this order fails to include one particular population– those who are homeless. There are over 500,000 Americans who do not have a place to call home, and people who are homeless account for over 0.17% of the American population. As we have learned, COVID-19 spreads through air droplets from an infected person sneezing or coughing, which is why social distancing is so heavily emphasized to prevent spreading the virus.
Just based on this premise alone– in which avoiding getting sick requires distance and sanitation, those who are homeless have an inherent risk for contracting the virus. Usually, people who are homeless sleep in close proximity to each other for safety reasons. And those who sleep in homeless shelters likely do not have a means to socially distance in a facility that typically houses people in close quarters. On a somewhat positive note, however, shelters across the country are beginning to take everyone’s temperature before they are allowed in for the night and if symptoms are observed, they’re automatically referred to a medical facility for treatment.
Some of us may also know that the virus can survive on surfaces–which includes clothing. Health guidelines have urged people to use hand sanitizer, to wipe surfaces clean, and to wash clothes worn after going into public spaces such as public transportation or the grocery store. Again, these guidelines exclude a particularly vulnerable part of our community.
These guidelines fail to acknowledge that not everyone has proper access to these resources, in order to practice these preventative actions. Having clean clothes and buying new clothes is a luxury that many cannot afford. This is another factor that contributes to making those in need more susceptible to the virus.
Most of us were probably looking forward to shopping for a summer wardrobe and most of us will still be able to buy clothes online. However, in these strange times, I urge everyone to try and take an hour to do some spring cleaning. The jeans, shirts, and jackets that are collecting dust in your closet can actually play a role in helping to flatten the curve of COVID – 19.
Donating clothes to those who need them more than you do will allow them to decrease their risk of contracting the virus by giving them clean clothes to wear. Look into your local churches, donation centers and homeless shelters to see what clothing, cleaning supplies and other items they are looking for and what they accept! Remember, to stay safe and healthy and most importantly to be kind to one another.