COVID-19 Guidance for Homeless Shelters and Services
This guidance is provided to assist homeless shelters and entities that serve the homeless. The Arkansas Department of Health endorses this guidance extracted from the CDC website and intended to help reduce the spread of COVID-19.
More comprehensive information is on the CDC website here.
Persons experiencing homelessness may be at risk for infection during an outbreak of COVID-19. This interim guidance is intended to support response planning by homeless service providers, including overnight emergency shelters, day shelters, and meal service providers.
CDC has developed recommendations for homeless service providers about how to protect their staff, clients, and guests.
These precautions should be put into practice.
- Provide COVID-19 prevention supplies at your organization. Have supplies on hand for staff, volunteers, and those you serve, such as soap, alcohol-based hand sanitizers that contain at least 60% alcohol, tissues, trash baskets, and disposable face masks.
- Plan to have extra supplies on hand during a COVID-19 outbreak.
- Ensure staff wash hands frequently and use alcohol-based hand sanitizer.
- Plan for staff and volunteer absences. Develop flexible attendance and sick-leave policies.
- Screen staff upon arrival for temperature and COVID-19 symptoms. A helpful form is provided here.
- Limit visitors to the facility. Use the visitor screening tool at the end of this guidance.
- Implement everyday preventive actions and provide instructions to workers about ways to prevent disease spread.
- If possible, identify space that can be used to accommodate clients with mild respiratory symptoms and separate them from others.
- Identify clients who could be at high risk for complications from COVID-19 (those who are older or have underlying health conditions) to ensure their needs are taken into consideration.
- Plan for higher shelter usage during the outbreak.
- Create a communication plan for distributing timely and accurate information during an outbreak. Identify everyone in your chain of communication (for example, staff, volunteers, key community partners and stakeholders, and clients) and establish systems for sharing information.
- Download COVID-19 posters and CDC Fact Sheets and keep your clients and guests informed about public health recommendations.
- In general sleeping areas (for those who are not experiencing respiratory symptoms), ensure that beds/mats are at least 3 feet apart, and request that all clients sleep head-to-toe.
- Provide access to fluids, tissues, plastic bags for the proper disposal of used tissues.
- Ensure bathrooms and other sinks are consistently stocked with soap and drying materials for handwashing. Provide alcohol-based hand sanitizers that contain at least 60 percent alcohol (if that is an option at your shelter) at key points within the facility, including registration desks, entrances/exits, and eating areas.
- At check-in, provide any client with respiratory symptoms (cough, fever) with a surgical mask.
- Confine clients with mild respiratory symptoms consistent with COVID-19 infection to individual rooms, if possible, and have them avoid common areas.
- If individual rooms for sick clients are not available, consider using a large, well-ventilated room.
- In areas where clients with respiratory illness are staying, keep beds at least 6 feet apart, use temporary barriers between beds (such as curtains), and request that all clients sleep head-to-toe.
- If possible, designate a separate bathroom for sick clients with COVID-19 symptoms.
- Consider reducing cleaning frequency in bedrooms and bathrooms dedicated to ill persons to as-needed cleaning (e.g., of soiled items and surfaces) to avoid unnecessary staff contact with the ill persons.
Additional guidance recommended by the Association of State and Territorial Health Officials includes
- Identify a list of healthcare facilities and alternative care sites where clients with respiratory illness can seek housing and receive appropriate care.
- Expand outreach teams/mobile services so that very vulnerable and isolated people can receive public health messages as well as continue receiving needed services.
- Use the assessment tool for homeless shelters here.