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 first 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 that has continued as the pandemic has raged on. Below are just some of the Coalition’s programmatic responses to the crisis:

  • Our nightly mobile soup kitchen increased meal production by 40 percent and has handed out nearly 400,000 emergency meals since the onset of the crisis.
  • We’ve distributed more than 60,000 bottles of hand sanitizer to homeless individuals.
  • We are providing a quarter million surgical masks to homeless New Yorkers to stem transmission of the virus.
  • We’ve been distributing 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 (1-888-358-2384) so that hundreds of people in need of shelter and referrals get the help they need, seven days a week. 
  • We installed specially designed offices where homeless New Yorkers can safely meet in person with our caseworkers.
  • 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 launched an emergency program to provide eviction prevention and rental assistance to at-risk households who do not qualify for other sources of aid.
  • 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: