Programmatic Response to COVID-19

As the COVID-19 crisis continues to grip New York City, few are at greater risk than families and individuals experiencing homelessness. Homeless New Yorkers have nowhere to self-quarantine, cannot practice social distancing, and those on the streets lack even regular access to a sink with running water and soap to wash their hands. Furthermore, homeless New Yorkers are far more likely to have the types of underlying medical conditions that result in high mortality rates from COVID-19.

The Coalition has been operating around the clock to meet the needs of homeless New Yorkers during this terrible crisis. The shelter-in-place order from the Governor on March 20 resulted in many frontline services for homeless people – such as soup kitchens, food pantries and drop-in centers – suspending operations, which created a tremendous surge in need on the streets. Below are just some of the steps the Coalition for the Homeless has taken to respond to the crisis:

  • Our nightly mobile soup kitchen increased meal production by 40 percent and has handed out more than 200,000 emergency meals since the onset of the crisis.
  • We’ve distributed more than 50,000 bottles of hand sanitizer to homeless individuals.
  • We provided more than 130,000 surgical masks to homeless New Yorkers to stem transmission of the virus.
  • We distributed thousands of prepaid cash cards that homeless people can use to purchase essentials like hygiene items, OTC medications, food and clothing.
  • We handed out 500 prepaid cell phones to homeless individuals.
  • We partnered with Doctors Without Borders and Shower Power to open and operate two Relief Centers – one in Midtown West, the other in Harlem – which offered unsheltered homeless people showers, toilets, PPE, clothing, bottled water, snacks and resource guides.
  • We opened a Crisis Services hotline (212-776-2177) so that hundreds of people in need of shelter and referrals get the help they need, seven days a week. 
  • We created accurate and continually updated Resource Guides by borough that allow both service providers and homeless people to remain informed about what frontline services are open and closed during the crisis.
  • We have been carefully monitoring all City and State policies impacting homeless New Yorkers during the crisis and we are advocating to ensure that those without homes have access to appropriate shelter, safe hotel rooms, medical care and services.

Watch the Grand Central Food Program in action: