1. Gin, June L. PhD
  2. Levine, Cheryl A. PhD
  3. Canavan, David
  4. Dobalian, Aram PhD, JD, MPH


Context: People experiencing homelessness are often the first and most severely affected group during disasters. Nonetheless, communities across the United States have frequently failed to adequately address the needs of homeless populations in disaster planning, response, and recovery. Communities must build multisector collaborative relationships and ensure that homeless service providers are adequately resourced. However, constraints in funding and staffing, combined with a lack of guidance about how to achieve an integrated approach to disaster planning for people experiencing homelessness, have hindered communities' ability to accomplish these goals.


Program: The US Department of Veterans Affairs, the US Department of Health and Human Services, and the US Department of Housing and Urban Development created an interagency workgroup to identify resources to help communities address the disaster needs of homeless populations. This workgroup created a toolkit to address this gap: Disaster Preparedness to Promote Community Resilience.


This article describes the development of the toolkit. The toolkit is divided into 3 sections:


1. Creating an inclusive emergency management system;


2. Planning for service continuity; and


3. Guidance for health care providers.



Section 1 provides guidance to homeless service providers and government entities in identifying collaborative relationships to ensure that services are available to address homeless populations' disaster needs. Section 2 offers nonprofit homeless service providers guidance in creating their disaster response plans. Section 3 aims to ensure that public health officials and health care systems have the capacity to provide health care to homeless populations during disasters.


Implementation: Efforts are under way to develop a disaster preparedness training manual to assist nonprofit homeless service organizations.


Discussion: Homeless service providers are vital partners in disaster response. Integrating them into emergency management and ensuring that they are adequately prepared for disasters will effectively enable them to contribute their unique skill sets to community disaster recovery.