Surviving outside without shelter is inherently unhealthy, and the pandemic has only made it more clear how critical a home is for health.
Now, on top of the pandemic, the fires raging across the west coast have created conditions that make it dangerous even to breath in most places in Washington. For days, the air quality has ranged from unhealthy to hazardous nearly everywhere in Washington.
People experiencing homelessness disproportionately live with underlying health conditions that put them at high risk of complications from both COVID-19 and from breathing unhealthy air.
In a regular year, the response would be to open large indoor group shelters for people to escape the smoke. That response is complicated by the pandemic, even though some communities are balancing the risks and have opened indoor spaces.
The Governor should immediately mobilize emergency resources to move people experiencing homelessness out of harm’s way from wildfire smoke. To prevent the spread of COVID-19, this should include sheltering people in hotels and motels, unused dorms, and other private and semi-private settings. If congregate shelters must be used, there should be adequate space to allow for social distancing.
The state should also ensure that everyone who lost their home to fire has adequate shelter, and ensure that low-income households who lost homes are prioritized in the recovery.
Protecting people experiencing homelessness is equally important and urgent. Shelter should be made available to anyone without a safe, indoor space, who is living in an area with unhealthy air, not limited to people who have been displaced by the fires.
Please take action today and email Gov. Inslee by using the form to the right. We encourage you to customize the message for a more personal effect. Thank you!