Mar. 30: Gov. DeWine recognizes the challenges facing homeless Ohioans and names COHHIO to the “Homelessness Team” charged with the state’s ongoing planning for access to healthcare and planning for quarantine or isolation. The governor asks communities to include emergency shelters in their COVID-19 response plans to help deconcentrate the facilities and allow residents to meet social distancing guidelines.
Mar. 27: COHHIO issues Pandemic Utility Relief Guidance for Low-income Renters – Due to COVID19, low-income renters are more vulnerable to utilities shut-off. Extra services have been put in place to avoid mass utility shut-offs as a result of many people losing their income, and some regular programs have been suspended for health and safety reasons. Here are some resources and guidance to avoid these shut offs and better understand available services.
Mar. 25: COHHIO issues Double Jeopardy: The Coronavirus & Homelessness in Ohio report finding emergency shelters and other homeless programs lack essential supplies and space necessary to implement basic guidance for containing the spread of COVID-19.
Mar. 22: Governor DeWine issues Stay-At-Home-Order – Homeless services staff are exempted
Gov. Dewine issued a Stay-At-Home order to take effect at 11:59 p.m. on Monday, Mar. 23. The order exempts people experiencing homelessness and those who are providing emergency shelter, outreach, residential services (like rapid rehousing, permanent supportive housing), healthcare and social services to homeless people. It also clarifies social distancing requirements. The order references essential Homeland Security regulations which further clarifies who is covered by essential services. Among the essential worker definitions are: “Workers who support food, shelter, and social services, and other necessities of life for economically disadvantaged or otherwise needy individuals, such as those residing in shelters.”
Ohio Housing Finance Agency to Provide $5 Million for Rental Assistance and Emergency Homelessness Services: On Mar. 18, OHFA’s Board of Directors approved a proposal to provide up to $5 million in funding to help homeless and low-income Ohioans negatively affected by the coronavirus pandemic avoid or escape homelessness and stay in their homes. Each of the state’s nine Continua of Care will receive a portion of the dollars to support homelessness prevention, rapid rehousing, and emergency rental assistance programs.
Utility Disconnections: The Public Utilities Commission of Ohio recently requested all utilities in the state suspend all disconnections and waive requirements for disconnection. While all of the utilities are complying with the PUCO’s request, many are unable to make their automated billing systems to stop sending disconnection notices. Direct questions or concerns to PUCO email service or call 1-800-672-2331.
Evictions: Ohio Supreme Court Chief Justice urged local courts to suspend eviction proceedings to slow the spread of the coronavirus. Several cities in Ohio have already paused evictions in light of the coronavirus outbreak, including Columbus, Dayton, and Cleveland.
COVID-19 is a particular threat to people experiencing homelessness and those who serve them. HUD, the CDC, the Ohio Balance of State Continuum of Care, and other agencies have issued guidance for housing and homeless assistance providers to curtail the impact of the coronavirus outbreak. (See below)
We have heard from some providers who are facing challenges implementing coronavirus guidance. Some examples include: acquiring adequate supplies of hand sanitizer and cleaning products, and identifying space to isolate or quarantine clients who might show symptoms of COVID-19.
If your agency is having difficulty implementing official guidelines to prepare for COVID-19, please convey these issues in an email to Douglas Argue. COHHIO is working with the Ohio Department of Health to relay these concerns and determine an appropriate response.
We are urging providers to immediately open a line of communication to your local health department. Develop a plan and engage with public health officials and healthcare providers now before any COVID-19 cases are suspected in your facility. Find your local health district directory.
The COHHIO Team
Guidance for Homeless Services Providers to Plan and Respond to COVID-19
Recommended Immediate Action Steps:
- Continue to provide services and train staff to recognize symptoms of COVID-19 and implement your agency’s COVID-19 plan.
- Stay on top of Ohio Department of Health guidance. Connect with local public health department to receive updated local guidance. Link to https://odh.ohio.gov/wps/portal/gov/odh/find-local-health-districts
- Practice diversion and prevention strategies to reduce admissions; expedite exits
- Review and reconfigure resident areas to align with social distancing recommendations (e.g. head to toe beds that 6 feet apart, spread out chairs, etc.)
- Establish screening protocols for residents, staff, and volunteers who enter the building
- Make quarantine space available for residents who are symptomatic with separate access to restrooms
- Encourage staff, residents and volunteers to wash hands regularly, make sanitizer available, cover your mouth when coughing/sneezing, avoid touching your face, etc
- Plan for staff and volunteer absences
- Identify clients who may be at high risk for complications from COVID-19 and develop plans to ensure they can be transported to medical providers
- Ohio Department of Health:
- HUD Guidance (Webinar):
- CDC Guidance:
- NAEH Guidance – Coronavirus and Homelessness Post (Updated)
- USICH Guidance – COVID-19 Toolkit
- World Health Organization – COVID-19 Myth Busters
- CSH – Guidance for supportive housing providers
- Ohio Domestic Violence Network
- Ohio Bureau of Workers’ Compensation – COVID-19 and workers’ comp claims FAQ
The National Alliance to End Homelessness has sent out an advisory recommending homeless services providers take the following action:
- Be prepared by staying informed about your local COVID-19 situation and establish relationships with public health partners in your community
- Communicate with staff and clients about facility preparedness and policy updates (i.e. modified hours, non-urgent care by telephone, etc.), and consider using social media to do so
- Expect the homelessness services sector workforce to be impacted, and anticipate modified service delivery based on staff capacity
- Protect your workforce by screening clients, staff, and visitors for acute respiratory illness, ensuring use of personal protection equipment, and encouraging sick employees to stay home
- Protect your clients by separating those with respiratory illnesses, and implementing prevention strategies to minimize exposure (i.e. encouraging frequent hand-washing, increased surface cleaning/disinfection, etc.)
- Take inventory of supplies (hand soap, food, and more) and order more if necessary
Coronavirus Info for Balance of State CoC Providers
COVID-19 information that is specific to providers within Ohio’s BoSCoC is available here. Please use the Google form on that page to submit information about your agency’s specific needs.