COVID-19 and Pandemic Planning in the Context of Rural and Remote Homelessness

Addressing the vulnerability and unique needs of homeless populations during pandemics has been a major component of the Canadian federal response to the COVID-19 crisis. Rural and remote communities, however, have received little to no funding to aid in their care of homeless people during the pandemic. Similarly, there has been little to no research on rural communities’ pandemic preparedness in the context of homelessness. There are large numbers of homeless individuals in rural and remote Canada, including Indigenous peoples who are over-represented in homeless populations. Rural communities, including rural and remote Indigenous communities, are often isolated and more limited than urban areas in their capacity to respond to pandemics. They are particularly vulnerable due to fewer healthcare and social service resources—the lack of which has been particularly evident during the COVID-19 pandemic. In this commentary, we suggest that policy-makers need to take seriously the situation of rural homelessness in Canada, its implications for individual and community health, and consequences in the context of pandemics. Policy- and decision-makers can address these concerns through increased homelessness funding and support for rural and remote communities, policy change to recognize the unique challenges associated with rural pandemic planning and homelessness, and more research that can be translated into policy, programs, and supports for rural homelessness and pandemic planning response.

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Canadian Journal of Public Health