ARCHIVED WEBPAGE: This web page is available for historical purposes. CDC is no longer updating this web page and it may not reflect CDC's current COVID-19 guidance. For the latest information, visit CDC's COVID-19 home page.

Important update: Healthcare facilities
CDC has updated select ways to operate healthcare systems effectively in response to COVID-19 vaccination. Learn more
To maximize protection from the Delta variant and prevent possibly spreading it to others, get vaccinated as soon as you can and wear a mask indoors in public if you are in an area of substantial or high transmission.
Given new evidence on the B.1.617.2 (Delta) variant, CDC has updated the guidance for fully vaccinated people. CDC recommends universal indoor masking for all teachers, staff, students, and visitors to K-12 schools, regardless of vaccination status. Children should return to full-time in-person learning in the fall with layered prevention strategies in place.

People Experiencing Homelessness

People Experiencing Homelessness

People experiencing homelessness are at risk of COVID-19.

Homeless services are often provided in congregate (group) settings, which could make the spread of infection easier. Because many people experiencing homelessness are older adults or have underlying medical conditions, they may also be at increased risk for severe illness from COVID-19.

Health departments and healthcare facilities should be aware that people experiencing homelessness are disproportionately affected by COVID-19. Staff providing homeless services can help protect clients and other staff and slow the spread of COVID-19 by encouraging COVID-19 vaccinations and using CDC’s Guidance for Homeless Service Providers. If possible, identifying non-congregate settings where people at increased risk can stay may help protect them from COVID-19.

For more detailed information and resources for homeless service providers, please visit Resources to Support People Experiencing Homelessness.

How to protect yourself from COVID-19 if you are experiencing homelessness

Many of the recommendations to prevent COVID-19 may be difficult if you are experiencing homelessness. Although it may not be possible to avoid certain crowded locations (such as shelters), you should:

  • Wash hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds as often as possible or use hand sanitizer containing at least 60% alcohol when soap and water are not available, and cover coughs and sneezes.

If people experiencing homelessness have symptoms

Any person experiencing homelessness with symptoms consistent with COVID-19  (fever, cough, or shortness of breath) should alert their service providers (such as case managers, shelter staff, and other care providers). These staff will help the individual understand how to isolate themselves and identify options for medical care as needed.

How to get tested for COVID-19

You can access COVID-19 testing through a healthcare provider.

Local public health and healthcare facilities need to determine the best location for this testing in coordination with walk-in clinics and street medicine clinics. If you are unsure where to receive a test for COVID-19, ask shelter staff or your healthcare provider.

Anyone sick with COVID-19 should stay isolated

If you have suspected or confirmed COVID-19, you should stay in a place where you can isolate from other people to prevent spreading the infection. Local health departments, housing authorities, homeless service systems, and healthcare facilities should identify locations to isolate people with known or suspected COVID-19 until you meet the criteria to end isolation.

If no on-site isolation or alternative site isolation options are available, homeless service providers should plan for how they can help people isolate themselves while efforts are underway to provide additional support. If you need help identifying a place to stay isolated from other people, talk with shelter staff about what options you have.

Donations of food and clothing to homeless service providers

Homeless service providers can accept donations of food and clothing during community spread of COVID-19, but general infection control precautions should be taken. Request that donors not donate if they are sick.

  • Set up donation drop-off points to encourage social distancing between shelter workers and those donating.
  • Launder donated clothing, sheets, towels, or other fabrics on high heat settings, and disinfect items that are nonporous, such as items made of plastic.
  • Food donations should be shelf-stable, and shelter staff should take usual food-related infection prevention precautionsexternal icon.

Symptom screening of clients at homeless shelters

Homeless shelters may screen you for symptoms of respiratory infections.

If you have symptoms, you may or may not have COVID-19. If you have symptoms, you may be asked to stay elsewhere in a shelter or at a separate, off-site facility from other clients until you can receive a test for COVID-19. An on-site nurse or other clinical staff can help with  care for symptoms.

If you are experiencing COVID-like symptoms  (such as fever, cough, or shortness of breath), you should alert your service providers (case managers, shelter staff, and other care providers). These staff members can help you understand how to isolate and identify options for medical care as needed.

Keeping open homeless shelters and encampments

Homeless shelters serve a critical function in our communities. Shelters should stay open unless homeless service providers, health departments, and housing authorities have determined together that a shelter needs to close. You should still be able to receive essential services at homeless shelters.