Group of people with face masks standing in front of the side of a van with logo Coalition for the Homeless

Coalition for the Homeless COVID-19 Response

As the COVID-19 crisis continues to grip New York City, few are at greater risk than homeless families and individuals. Those without homes 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 generally don’t have quality health care, and are likely to have the types of underlying medical conditions that result in high mortality rates should they contract the virus.

The Coalition has been operating around the clock to meet the needs of homeless New Yorkers during this 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. In response, below are just some of the steps the Coalition for the Homeless has taken to date:

  • Our nightly mobile soup kitchen, the Grand Central Food Program, increased meal production by 40 percent and is handing out more than 2,200 additional meals each week.
  • Our volunteers are distributing more than 50,000 bottles of hand sanitizer to unsheltered homeless individuals.
  • We are in the process of supplying more than 130,000 surgical masks to homeless New Yorkers to stem transmission of the virus.
  • We are distributing thousands of prepaid cash cards that homeless people can use to purchase essentials like hygiene items, OTC medications, food and clothing.
  • We partnered with Doctors Without Borders to obtain 500 cell phones with prepaid plans that will be given to homeless individuals who lack them.
  • We also partnered with Doctors Without Borders to open a Midtown Relief Center and Harlem Relief Center, which offer unsheltered homeless people showers, toilets, PPE, bottled water, snacks, clothing, and resource guides. Doctors Without Borders recently handed operations of the relief centers to Shower Power, which is now seeking an alternate location for the midtown site. The Harlem Relief Center is currently operating on Mondays, Wednesdays and Saturdays from 1pm to 5pm.
  • We opened a Crisis Services hotline so that those in need of shelter and referrals get the help they need. The number is 212-776-2177.
  • We created accurate and continually updated Resource Guides 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, medical care and services.

The Coalition will continue to operate seven days a week, as it always has, protecting the lives and wellbeing of our most vulnerable neighbors.  

From July 8th to 14th, we raised funds to support our ongoing COVID relief efforts for homeless New Yorkers — providing food, distributing masks & PPE, and advocating for the underserved — through a special online auction featuring opportunities to meet celebrity chefs Ina Garten, David Chang and Ignacio Mattos and actors Kathleen Turner and Andrew Rannells.

Please consider making a donation to support our efforts.


For more information about our response to the COVID crisis, click here.