Homeless people vulnerable during a pandemic, but left out of planning, says new book


TORONTO, October 13, 2016 – Homeless people may be some of the hardest hit in a pandemic, but pandemic preparedness plans often don’t include them. A new book looks at the unique challenges and issues of pandemic planning, preparedness and response when it comes to homelessness populations and those that work with them across Canada.

Cover of new book, Pandemic Preparedness & Homelessness

Cover of new book, Pandemic Preparedness & Homelessness

Pandemic Preparedness and Homelessness: Lessons from H1N1 in Canada, co-edited by York University alumna Kristy Buccieri with chapters by York U education Professor Stephen Gaetz, director of the Canadian Observatory on Homelessness, and Osgoode Hall Law School Professor Janet Mosher, presents findings from a multi-year, multi-city study. The goal is to provide a guide to better pandemic preparedness planning for some of the country’s most vulnerable people.

The research examined the planning for and response to the H1N1 influenza pandemic in 2009 and 2010, and how it impacted the homeless in four cities – Victoria, Calgary, Regina and Toronto. The researchers surveyed and interviewed homeless individuals, as well as service providers and key stakeholders.

Gaetz led the Toronto area research involving 149 participants, while Bernadette Pauly led Victoria with 44 participants, Jeannette Waegemakers Schiff led Calgary with 118 participants and Rebecca Schiff led Regina with 40 participants. Twenty four per cent of participants were youth, 31 per cent Aboriginal and 42 per cent identified as LGBTQ.

Gaetz and Buccieri discuss how the current emergency-based Canadian response to homelessness is unsustainable and, during another pandemic outbreak, will further put the health and well-being of homeless people at risk. They argue there needs to be support for planning, infection control, system capacity, inter-sectoral collaboration, communications and training, and unpredictability.

Mosher looks at how pandemics are considered global threats to national security and instead suggests looking at them through a social justice lens with a focus on the social determinants of health.

The book’s authors also look at how the four Canadian cities planned and handled the H1N1 outbreak, the effect it had on homeless individuals, what worked and what needs to change, such as the elimination of social and structural barriers to care.

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Media Contact:

Oxana Roudenko, Canadian Observatory on Homelessness, 416-736-2100 ext. 33376, oroudenko@edu.yorku.ca