March 20, 2020
To: Governor Greg Abbott, Lieutenant Governor Dan Patrick, Speaker Dennis Bonnen
We applaud the Texas Supreme Court’s recent decisive actions to protect Texans by halting some evictions as we deal with the COVID-19 pandemic. We share your desire to protect those most vulnerable and most likely to experience dire health and economic consequences. As you prepare additional solutions and resources to address COVID-19 in Texas, we strongly encourage you to include funding for homelessness and homelessness prevention as a top priority – tens of thousands of individuals and families are already experiencing housing instability or are one paycheck away from homelessness.
People experiencing homelessness have limited access to the preventive measures being recommended including handwashing, home isolation, avoiding high touch surfaces, and rapid access to health care to help prevent an outbreak. People who are experiencing homelessness are far more likely to have chronic underlying health conditions that put them at higher risk and can make the disease more deadly. Because people experiencing homelessness may be living in congregated communities – whether in encampments or shelters – and cannot self-quarantine, we must act now to contain any outbreak among people experiencing homelessness.
The most important thing to the health and well-being of this state and its citizens is slowing the spread of this virus. Our efforts to flatten the curve of infection are inadequate unless Texans experiencing homelessness are prioritized with other highly vulnerable populations for treatment and monitoring. People living without basic shelter are at a particularly high risk of a Coronavirus outbreak. The spread of this virus among people experiencing homelessness and ultimately, all Texans, will continue if we do not act now and help our public health agencies and homeless crisis response systems mitigate this issue as fully and as quickly as possible. Considering the severity of this situation we are advising urgent action on the following recommendations.
Provide urgent public health and financial support to homeless crisis response systems.
Mitigate the effects of coronavirus spread through Texans at-risk of or experiencing homelessness.
This is not the first public health crisis our state has faced, nor will it be the last. The reaction to the crisis cannot be austerity. We need focused healthcare with expanded access, strong homeless crisis response systems, expanded shelter and housing opportunities, and protections from evictions or utility coverage.
In order to prevent further illness and loss of life, we must devote public health resources to people experiencing homelessness, robustly support Texas homeless crisis response systems with immediate assistance, and enact policies that prevent and end homelessness for Texans at risk of or currently experiencing this vulnerable condition.
Through these actions and this investment, we can continue our goal of making homelessness rare, brief, and a one-time event and flatten the curve of coronavirus spread across the state of Texas.
The following Continuums of Care (CoC) serving people experiencing homelessness in Texas join THN in support of this statement. These eight CoCs coordinate homeless crisis response systems that cover 246 of Texas’ 254 counties: Coalition for the Homeless Houston/Harris County, El Paso Coalition for the Homeless, Heart of Texas CoC, Metro Dallas Homeless Alliance, South Alamo Regional Alliance for the Homeless, Tarrant County Homeless Coalition, Texas Balance of State Coc (215 Rural & Mid-Sized counties, and the Wichita Falls/Wise, Palo Pinto, Wichita, Archer Counties CoC.