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Disaster response and people experiencing homelessness: Addressing challenges of a population with limited resources

Bryan Wexler, MD, MPH, Mary-Elise Smith, MD, MA

Abstract


In this article the authors provide an overview of some issues that inhibit disaster planning and response for people experiencing homelessness and discuss the planning process conducted for this population in Worcester, MA. People experiencing homelessness face numerous challenges in preparing for disasters both natural and human caused. Similarly, providers attempting to aid these individuals must recognize and overcome various factors that hamper efforts to provide assistance. People experiencing homelessness lack the general resources many in the United States take for granted, including food, shelter, communication methods, and transportation. The population also has an increased prevalence of medical and psychiatric conditions. These factors amplify the typical difficulties in preparedness, communication, sheltering, and training for disasters. With these principles in mind, the authors reviewed the literature for best practices, identified potential stakeholders, and developed an annex to help address organization and delivery of care to those experiencing homelessness during a disaster.


Keywords


disaster planning, emergency preparedness, homelessness, vulnerable population

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References


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DOI: https://doi.org/10.5055/jem.2015.0233

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