Most obviously, staying at home is not an option if you do not have a home. Homelessness has increased dramatically in recent years. Homeless people have poorer existing health and lack the basic facilities that would enable them to reduce their risk to COVID-19 by isolating or washing their hands regularly. The closure of public services will particularly affect this group, as libraries for example often host outreach and support activities.
Facilities available to homeless people are also problematic in terms of dealing with the virus. Homeless shelters are a high-risk environment due to the close proximity of residents and shared facilities. Many homeless people are housed in accommodation intended to be used as a short-term last resort, such as B&Bs, where they have no access to cooking facilities, exacerbating difficulties in accessing food. With the latest government restrictions many hotels which provide emergency accommodation for homeless people have been shutting, often with no clear alternative for these displaced people. The economic impact of COVID-19 raises serious concerns about an escalation of homelessness. The ending of a private tenancy is the leading cause of homelessness and key workers at risk of contracting the virus because of their employment have found themselves facing eviction because of fears that they will spread the virus to landlords. COVID-19 has led to sudden and severe reductions in incomes for many, particularly the self- and precariously employed. This is likely to lead to housing payment arrears, which have been linked to reduced health, particularly for renters (in the UK), and can lead to eviction or foreclosure. While mortgage-holders were given a 3-month mortgage holiday, provisions to protect renters in England from eviction during the COVID-19 crisis were initially disappointing though those measures have been improved and now suspend eviction processes for 3 months. In the face of a looming economic crisis, there is still scope for further intervention here, however. For example, there are plans in Scotland to enforce a 6-month ban on evictions in the private rented sector, providing renters with greater security.