Expert Advice to Send Red, Not Blue to Help Homeless Families During a Disaster
A new report, Send Red, Not Blue: The Homeless Resident draws on the experience of two communities that have experienced frequent hurricanes and served homeless families and individuals during a disaster.
Prepared by the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) Office of Special Needs Assistance Programs (SNAPS) Community Planning and Development, the report provides recommendations on how to improve communication between local homeless services providers, disaster preparedness planners, and homeless residents themselves.
With thousands of New Jersey families still recovering from Superstorm Sandy, this report is relevant and includes recommendations that can help communities across our state better prepare for future storms.
Many communities struggle to meet the disaster-related needs of homeless people, generally due to limited communication capacity with emergency management officials and a lack of coordination among service providers.
Agencies in Tampa Bay’s Hillsborough and Pinellas counties, however, as a consequence of their frequent experience with disaster response, have developed model procedures to protect vulnerable populations and are working to increase interagency coordination and integration with emergency responders.
Researchers explored these experiences through a variety of data gathering methods, including a thorough literature review, key informant interviews, and focus groups of service providers and of homeless individuals.
Consistent with past research, participants in the focus groups conducted by this project pointed out that homeless persons on the street are more likely to listen to and follow disaster response messages conveyed by firefighters and emergency medical technicians (EMTs) as “first responders” than directions from police officers. This feedback, received succinctly from a focus group member as “Send red, not blue,” was so meaningful an insight that the authors adopted it as the title of this report.
Recommendations for Continuums of Care (CoCs) include:
- Identify a lead person and form a committee to develop a Disaster Plan (include people with lived homeless experience and stakeholders with disaster experience).
- Build partnerships with Emergency Management Organization; understand each other’s roles and responsibilities and ensure people experiencing homelessness are considered in the planning, response and recovery process.
- Identify the strengths and needs of the homeless services agencies before, during and after a disaster.
- Create a Disaster Plan; recommendations and a community sample can be found in this document.
- Require a Disaster Plan when contracting with organizations.
- Include disaster planning as a standing agenda item at Continuum of Care meetings.
- Train staff on the Disaster Plan and role play disaster scenarios.
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