COVID-19 Update

Updated: May 22, 2020

While the current COVID-19 outbreak in NYC is dramatically impacting the lives of every person in our city, please remember that homeless New Yorkers are particularly vulnerable, as they have much higher rates of serious underlying health problems, generally lack access to quality health care, and have no way to self-quarantine. The Coalition for the Homeless is doing all in our power to ensure that our neighbors without homes get the help and protection they need during this crisis.

The Coalition’s Programmatic Response

The Coalition’s programs are working around the clock to ensure the health and safety of the people we serve, as well as curb the spread of the coronavirus.

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People bedding down on the streets, in the subway, and in other public places are particularly vulnerable, as they have higher rates of serious health problems, are constantly exposed to the environment, and lack access to bathrooms and running water needed to simply wash their hands.

The situation is becoming dire as soup kitchens and food pantries around the city suspend operations in response to the outbreak, dramatically increasing the number of people in need on the streets.

The Coalition’s Grand Central Food Program, which distributes nutritional meals and other emergency items to 1,000 people on the street each and every night, will continue operations.

We also partnered with Doctors Without Borders to open the Harlem Relief Center, located at the Salvation Army Harlem Temple at 62 West 138th Street (near Lenox Avenue), which offers unsheltered homeless people showers, toilets, bottled water, snacks, socks and other clothing, and resource guides. Download the flyer here.

We opened a special Crisis Hotline open for homeless individuals who need immediate help finding shelter or meeting other critical needs. That number is 212-776-2177.

Client mail will be available every Friday in May from 11am-2pm.  Please call 212-776-2117 to check if you have mail waiting, as usual. 

Working client mail is now kept in the mail room and will be made available through the same process as all other mail.  

*Please be advised that the post office is experiencing significant delays in processing mail.  As a result we have seen significant delays in receipt of mail in turn.  We will make all mail available on the next mail day after it is received. 

The Coalition’s permanent housing programs also continue to provide the dignity and safety of a home to more than 100 formerly homeless families and single adults.


The Coalition for the Homeless is continually monitoring the City’s response to the outbreak, and our policy recommendations can be read here. A sample of our recent policy correspondence is available here. Homeless New Yorkers in shelters have a higher age-adjusted mortality rate than New York City as a whole – click here for up-to-date calculations and chart.

On May 18th, the Coalition for the Homeless submitted testimony to the New York State Legislature on the disproportionate impact of COVID-19 on minority communities, including a disproportionately higher mortality rate among homeless New Yorkers sleeping in shelters. The testimony chronicled the delayed, inconsistent, and inadequate City and State responses to the pandemic in the early months, and recommended policies needed to curb the spread of the virus and better help New Yorkers who are homeless and at risk of losing their homes. Read testimony here.

On March 26th, The Legal Aid Society sent a letter to the Department of Homeless Services at the request of the Coalition for the Homeless citing several problems with the City’s response to the COVID-19 crisis and the need for homeless individuals to have access to safe shelters in which they can be isolated and recover. Read the full letter here and the Wall Street Journal article about the letter here.

On April 3rd, Coalition for the Homeless and other housing and health care advocates sent a letter calling on Mayor de Blasio and Governor Cuomo to open vacant hotel rooms for sick and vulnerable homeless New Yorkers during the COVID-19 crisis. Read the letter and our statement here.

Department of Homeless Services (DHS) COVID-19-Related Guidance and Workflows for Shelter Providers, Outreach Teams and Hospitals

The following documents include guidance for shelter providers, outreach teams, and hospitals on how to handle COVID-19 referrals for residents of shelters and those who are unsheltered, including for those in need of isolation shelters upon discharge from emergency departments and inpatient units. The Coalition will continue to post updated guidance and workflows as DHS shares them. 

COVID-19 Best Practices for DHS Shelters (undated)

COVID-19 DHS Shelter Guidance (March 27, 2020)

COVID-19 Facts and Tips (undated)

COVID-19 Isolation Plan and Best Practices for DHS Shelters (April 28, 2020)

DHS COVID-19 Isolation Site Process, Responsibilities, and Best Practices (May 8, 2020)

DHS COVID-19 Isolation Site Referral form (May 1, 2020)

DHS COVID-19 Protocol For Isolation and Discharge to Shelter (April 21, 2020)

Face Mask Guidance (undated)

Isolation Advisory Letter to Client

Isolation Discharge Criteria (undated)

SARS-CoV-2 (COVID-19) Testing Information Sheet and Consent

Shelter Provider COVID-19 FAQs (April 28, 2020)

Street Homeless Outreach Response COVID-19 (March 27, 2020)

Virtual Buprenorphine Clinic flyer (undated)

Visit the Western New York Law Center for additional COVID-19-related materials prepared by government and non-profit agencies.


For information on accessing CARES Act benefits or unemployment benefits, please click here.

Eviction Moratorium

New York State has paused eviction proceedings through at least June 20, 2020, because of the public health emergency posed by COVID-19. New York City housing courts are closed except for emergency proceedings, such as illegal lockout cases. For more information about the eviction moratorium, click here.