The COVID-19 pandemic has negatively affected U.S. citizens in numerous ways, in terms of the economy, mental health and overall as a society. Government officials have made various attempts to aid the American people, through stimulus checks and expanding health care coverage. However, the pandemic has still caused an increase in the number of people experiencing homelessness in Florida.
According to the Florida Coalition To End Homelessness, as of Sept. 2020, Florida has the third-largest homeless population, at 27,487, following California and New York. The Florida Department of Education’s 2019-20 District Homeless Record Counts show that Miami-Dade has the largest number of homeless students. Even before the pandemic, many people and families struggled to make ends meet.
“Prior to the pandemic, there were many homeless people. I would go by places like Tamiami and there would be tens of homeless people under bridges… asking for money,” Miami Palmetto Senior High School senior Kailey Nunez said. “I have noticed an increase in homeless people since the pandemic started… business owners have lost their livelihoods… employers have had to fire many due to decreasing business.”
The CDC has said that those experiencing homelesseness have a higher percentage of catching COVID-19, as it remains more difficult to prevent themselves from contracting the virus and they do not have the proper aid to receive treatment or to care for themselves. Those undergoing hardships may find themselves unable to acquire items such as hand sanitizer and masks, which one needs a substantial amount of to continuously stay safe from the virus.
“I think the government should allocate more money towards the homeless population during times like these,” Nunez said.
Furthermore, a majority of the homeless population is older in age. In fact, one in five people experiencing homelessness in Miami-Dade is over the age of 55, according to the nonprofit The Homeless Trust. This leaves them more susceptible to the harsher effects of COVID-19.
The issue with some of the services provided for the homeless is that many of them do not have ways of learning about said services. The homeless population often does not have technology, nor do they have the resources to discover means of aid, only worsening their chances. These types of situations have occurred since long before the pandemic — some people cannot find help due to their lack of knowledge about resources.
“The local government has made it easy to acquire the vaccine…cases have gone down somewhat and businesses and such are very strict with guidelines,” Nunez said.