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help for homeless veterans

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Natural Disasters


Natural Disasters

flood aerial viewThere is an increased vulnerability of homeless populations when natural disasters occur as these individuals often do not have the resources to evacuate and thus remove themselves from the path of a severe weather-related event, or even to collect needed supplies. The increase demand for services and supplies in the wake of a natural disaster make those challenges even more challenging for this vulnerable population.

VA and non-VA programs that serve Veterans experiencing homelessness are uniquely situated to assist during disasters or other emergency events. Programs staff can provide ancillary support to emergency personnel planners and responders.  Homeless program staff are knowledgeable regarding community agencies, and aware of and in touch with VA and non-VA resources, familiar with geography and local neighborhoods, and key persons responsible for coordinating the city, county, and state response.

Disaster Preparedness Toolkit


A concise overview and introduction to the toolkit.

VA Guidance on Natural Disasters for Veteran Borrowers


Report and Recommendations on Working with Homeless Families and Individuals in Disaster Preparedness, Response and Recovery


Natural Disasters and Homelessness


Surviving Severe Weather: Tools to Promote Emergency Preparedness for People Experiencing Homelessness


2013, This series of weather-specific informational flyers was developed specifically for people experiencing homelessness using input from people who are formerly and currently homeless. Information for planning a severe weather dialogue and learning session is included.

Planning a training or dialogue


Extreme Heat


Extreme Cold












HUD Helping Your Community Recover After a Disaster: (April 2018)

What to Expect in the Wake of Disaster

Managing Grief after Disaster

Ethical Issues in Disaster Response, 2007, This half-hour, online training module addresses ethical issues in disaster response such as cultural competence and ethical conflicts which arise when there is an inequality of power and/or control. Enrollment in the module is free of charge and provides continuing education credits.

The Impact of Disaster and Mass Violence Events on Mental Health
Discusses normal and problematic responses to disaster, including bereavement complications, acute stress disorder, PTSD symptoms, and associated problems.

Phases of Traumatic Stress Reactions Following Disaster and Mass Violence
Describes the typical phases of reaction to disaster and mass violence, including: impact, immediate, intermediate, and long term.

Risk and Resilience Factors After Disaster and Mass Violence
Reviews the risk and resilience (or protective) factors at the individual, social, and community level that impact the influence of disaster or mass violence events on those affected.

Including Homeless Populations in Disaster Preparedness, Planning, and Response: A Toolkit for Practitioners. Gin JL, Levine CA, Canavan D, Dobalian A.Gin JL, et al. J Public Health Manag Pract. 2020 Jul 21. doi: 10.1097/PHH.0000000000001230

Comparing Unsheltered and Sheltered Homeless: Demographics, Health Services Use and Predictors of Health Services Use. Petrovich JC, Hunt JJ, North CS, Pollio DE, Roark Murphy E., Community Ment Health J. 2019 Sep 24. doi: 10.1007/s10597-019-00470-0. [Epub ahead of print]

There's nowhere to go: counting the costs of extreme weather to the homeless community. Every D, Richardson J, Osborn E., Disasters. 2019 Oct;43(4):799-817. doi: 10.1111/disa.12400. Epub 2019 Aug 16.

Ensuring Continuity of Transitional Housing for Homeless Veterans: Promoting Disaster Resilience among the Veterans Health Administration's Grant and Per Diem Providers. Gin JL, Casey RJ, Quarles JL, Dobalian A., J Prim Care Community Health. 2019 Jan-Dec;10:2150132719861262. doi: 10.1177/2150132719861262.

Disaster-related communication preferences of homeless and nonhomeless VA patients. Gable AR, Der-Martirosian C, Pinnock LN, Dobalian A., J Emerg Manag. 2018 Jan/Feb;16(1):49-59. doi: 10.5055/jem.2018.0353.

Human rights and proactive displacement: determining the appropriate balance between the duty to protect and the right to remain. McDermott R PhD, Gibbons P PhD., Disasters. 2017 Jul;41(3):587-605. doi: 10.1111/disa.12217. Epub 2016 Sep 22.

A Post-Hurricane Katrina Examination of Substance Abuse Treatment Discharges With Co-Occurring Psychiatric and Substance Use Disorders. Shuler M, Suzuki S, Podesta A, Qualls-Hampton R, Wallington SF. J Dual Diagn. 2017 Apr-Jun;13(2):144-156. doi: 10.1080/15504263.2016.1277816. Epub 2017 Jan 3.

Hurricane Sandy's impact on the predisaster homeless and homeless shelter services in New Jersey. Settembrino MR., J Emerg Manag. 2016 Jan-Feb;14(1):7-16. doi: 10.5055/jem.2016.0268.

Upstream Disaster Management to Support People Experiencing Homelessness. Sundareswaran M, Ghazzawi A, O'Sullivan TL., PLoS Curr. 2015 Aug 18;7. pii: ecurrents.dis.95f6b76789ce910bae08b6dc1f252c7d. doi: 10.1371/currents.dis.95f6b76789ce910bae08b6dc1f252c7d.

Disaster response and people experiencing homelessness: Addressing challenges of a population with limited resources. Wexler B, Smith ME., J Emerg Manag. 2015 May-Jun;13(3):195-200. doi: 10.5055/jem.2015.0233. Review.

Characteristics and service use of homeless veterans and nonveterans residing in a low-demand emergency shelter. Petrovich JC, Pollio DE, North CS., Psychiatr Serv. 2014 Jun 1;65(6):751-7. doi: 10.1176/

Use of outpatient mental health services by homeless veterans after hurricanes. Brown LM, Barnett S, Hickling E, Frahm K, Campbell RR, Olney R, Schinka JA, Casey R.
Psychol Serv. 2013 May;10(2):250-6. doi: 10.1037/a0031516. Epub 2013 Feb 11.

Preparing and Responding to Natural Disasters: Health Care for the Homeless Perspectives, 2018. With recent natural disasters striking major metropolitan areas, the need for preparedness and response discussions has drastically increased. Preparing our health centers, our staff, and our consumers is vital for safety and recovery. Join us as we explore disaster preparedness and response for health centers treating people experiencing homelessness from multiple angles. We will share disaster preparedness plans from an administrative and operations perspective, challenges and success in planning and response, lessons learned following Hurricane Harvey, hear stories of involuntary evacuation for Hurricane Irma, and learn useful strategies to proactively engage and prepare consumers for natural disasters. View slides and video.

Integrating Homeless Service Providers and Clients in Disaster Preparedness, Response, and Recover, 2014, This issue brief outlines strategies in place in two Florida counties to meet the disaster needs of people experiencing homelessness. Findings from focus groups were used to assess homeless individual and service provider knowledge base and perception of these strategies. Recommendations are offered for other communities working towards more inclusive planning.

No available resources

No One Left Behind: Disaster Planning for People Experiencing Homelessness, 2010, Workshop materials from the 2010 National Health Care for the Homeless Conference and Policy Symposium

Disaster Planning for People Experiencing Homelessness

Health Centers: Assistance Before, During, and After Emergencies and Disasters, 2013, prepared by the National Association of Community Health Centers

Disaster Response for Homeless Individuals and Families: A Trauma-Informed Approach, prepared by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Office of the Assistant Secretary for Preparedness and Response

Resource Guide for Disaster Medicine and Public Health | The Resource Guide for Disaster Medicine and Public Health is a portal that provides users access to a variety of reports, fact sheets, guidelines, tools, etc. regarding disaster medicine and public health.

Medical Reserve Corps – The mission of the MRC is to engage volunteers to strengthen public health, emergency response and community resiliency.

Emergency Management resources from Health Center Resource Clearinghouse

Ready for Anything: A Disaster Planning Manual for Runaway and Homeless Youth Programs, developed for the Administration for Children and Families, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. While this manual was developed with children and youth in mind, the information and templates are useful for shelters serving single adults as well.

Collaborating with community health centers for preparedness | Prepared by the Association of State and Territorial Health Officials, this report offers examples of various models of collaboration related to discrete aspects of emergency response.

National Voluntary Organizations Active in Disaster (National VOAD) | Members of National VOAD form a coalition of nonprofit organizations that respond to disasters as part of their overall mission.

One Size Doesn't Fit All: Emergency Management for Healthcare for the Homeless Programs, 2008, | Mollie Melbourne | National Association of Community Health Centers | during the National Health Care for the Homeless Conference and Policy Symposium, Phoenix, Arizona

Alternative Marketing & Messaging to Prepare Vulnerable Populations, 2008 | Sponsored by Centers For Disease Control And Prevention (CDC), prepared by Collaborating Agencies Responding To Disaster (CARD) and SUNY Albany Center for Public Health. Continuing Education Units are available.

Community Health Center Emergency Planning Guidelines Template | Made available by the Florida Association of Community Health Centers

Health care at the crossroads: Strategies for creating and sustaining community-wide emergency preparedness systems, 2003. Prepared by the Joint Commission on Accreditation of Healthcare Organizations, the purpose of this report is to frame the issues that must be addressed in developing community-wide preparedness and to delineate federal and state responsibilities for eliminating barriers and for facilitating and sustaining—through leadership, funding and other resource deployment—community-based emergency preparedness across the United States.

Federal Disaster Assistance: FEMA Guidance for HRSA Community-Based Service Delivery Grantees – A compilation of essential information on HRSA grant programs from public websites for use by HRSA Bureaus and Offices as they assist their grantees following a disaster.

Disaster Preparedness to Promote Community Resilience | A joint project of the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, and the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. Use this toolkit to identify and collaborate with partners to address homeless individuals' disaster response & recovery needs.

Direct Relief | Direct Relief can work with healthcare professionals and organizations on the ground and equip them with the essential medical supplies and equipment that they need to help people recover from a disaster.

AmeriCares | AmeriCares delivers medicines, medical supplies and humanitarian aid to a trusted network of clinics, hospitals and health care providers.

National Resource Center on Advancing Emergency Preparedness for Culturally Diverse Communities | This site, produced jointly by Drexel University School of Public Health's Center for Health Equality and The Office of Minority Health, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, offers a comprehensive library of information related to emergency preparedness for culturally diverse communities.


Roger Casey, PhD

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