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Disaster Response for Homeless Individuals and Families: A Trauma-Informed Approach

People experiencing homelessness typically have limited resources and likely have past exposure to traumatic events. Therefore, they may be at higher risk of adverse physical and psychological reactions following a public health emergency or disaster. Trauma-informed approaches can help disaster responders effectively serve homeless individuals and families.

A trauma-informed approach to disaster response acknowledges past trauma and the current impact it may have on the lives of anyone receiving services or support. Sensitivity to trauma can improve communication between responders and the homeless and facilitate compliance with public health directives.

  • The National Center on Family Homelessness reports that 92% of homeless American mothers have experienced severe physical or sexual abuse in their lifetime.
  • 83% of homeless children have been exposed to at least one serious act of violence by age 12.
  • There were 1,148 reported hate crimes committed against homeless people between 1999 and 2010 in 47 states, Puerto Rico, and Washington, D.C.; 27% of the crimes were fatal.