Steps at a Glance
This Local Planning Guide outlines a community planning process that brings together organizations and individuals who can address the needs of homeless and other vulnerable populations in a disaster. Without this inclusive planning process, vulnerable members of your community will be overlooked, people will suffer, and the overall response and recovery effort will be hindered.
The Local Planning Guide is designed to help your community ensure your disaster plan addresses the needs of homeless and other vulnerable populations. This guide details the steps you can take to:
This guide is designed for:
Some disaster planning probably has already taken place in your community. No need to reinvent the wheel. Find out who was involved and what was accomplished. Were homeless and vulnerable populations addressed? Were they consulted? Does the plan identify special actions for these populations such as sheltering, mass evacuations for people without vehicles, mental health services? Do not be alarmed if these populations aren’t mentioned. Here is your chance to make that happen.
Understanding your community's gaps in planning for homeless and vulnerable populations in disasters.
Relevant resources might be scattered across various agencies and points of contact. Neighboring Community Development Block Grant Entitlement Communities may have overlapping plans. Consider state, county, and city plans. Cast a wide net to locate all the information you can on any existing plans and find out who is responsible for maintaining plans for your community.
Identify who is responsible for disaster planning in your jurisdiction. Get in touch with that person or group to understand how homeless and vulnerable populations were included in earlier planning.
No individual has all the knowledge and skills needed to identify issues and solutions for homeless populations in a disaster. You will need to build a network of people who have deep understanding of your community, disaster planning, and homelessness. All communities have a Continuum of Care (CoC) organization that coordinates work to end homelessness (note that your area could be covered by a "Balance of State" CoC if there is not a CoC in your city or county). Work with the CoC leadership. Let homeless service providers know about existing disaster preparedness plans, involve them and their clients in developing knowledge about persons experiencing homeless and other vulnerable populations, and gain their commitment to working on plan improvements.
A team that has the knowledge, skills, and commitment to plan an effective response to the needs of homeless and vulnerable people after a disaster.
Many team members are pressed for time and resources. As you assemble the team, communicate the urgency of this issue and the commitment to using their time wisely. Be clear about the challenges associated with disasters and homelessness and the role that each team member plays in addressing them.
Hold at least one meeting where current planning documents are reviewed and the team identifies and adds missing topics.
Identify and review existing data from the Con Plan, the Continuum of Care, and qualitative accounts from local service providers, to get a clearer picture of the numbers, characteristics, and locations of homeless people in your community.
Increased knowledge of your homeless populations, including location of outdoor camps, scope and size of substance abuse problems, common mental and physical challenges, and other key information that will help you craft a plan that addresses the real vulnerabilities in the community. Without this knowledge, you risk leaving people out and putting them in danger.
Quantitative data does not tell the whole story, so other reliable sources will be needed to complete the picture. Contact service providers, people experiencing homelessness, and other experts to get their qualitative accounts of the obstacles the homeless people face, their travel patterns, and problems they may face during and after a disaster.
Consult the local homelessness data expert to collect the most recent critical statistics about numbers, characteristics and locations of homeless people.
Your service provider network has skilled staff, facilities, and protocols for addressing homelessness that can support the disaster response. You will want to take advantage of these assets in your response. But a disaster can disrupt or overwhelm the organizations' operations. You need to understand the assets that are available as well as potential service gaps if a disaster hits.
An inventory of the capacity, skills, and services that your service network can provide to assist homeless and other vulnerable people during and after a disaster as well as an idea of where there may be gaps in the network post disaster.
Ensure service providers' assessment of their post-disaster resources is realistic. Recommend conservative estimates, especially for large-scale disasters when service providers will need to attend to the well-being of themselves and their own families.
Create a comprehensive list of service providers, their contact information, and resources. You can use your Con Plan, CoC and 211 provider get a quick start.
After analyzing existing plans, creating a network, and using data to understand community needs and resources, you're ready to enhance your community's existing disaster plans to address any gaps that overlook homeless people and other vulnerable populations. You will have solutions tailored to your community, but you don't need to come up with everything on your own. Best practices gleaned from other communities are covered in Parts 2 and 3 of this Toolkit.
An improved disaster plan that effectively integrates the needs of homeless people and other vulnerable people.
You do not want to create documents that sit on the shelf. To help ensure implementation, create action steps with clear lines of communication. Be specific. Include names of key contacts, titles and agencies, critical actions, responsible parties, and timelines.
Ensure the improved plan addresses the major issues that are key to disaster planning for the homeless: outreach, transportation, shelter, and services.
Do not let all your good work go to waste. Take immediate steps to prepare, including training, outreach, and public education. Clarify roles and sign agreements to codify them. Stay in touch with stakeholders. Community information will change over time, so update your plan regularly.
A commitment and practical approach for the community to assist persons experiencing homelessness and other vulnerable people in a disaster.
Ongoing communication across the community's planning network can be difficult. Include disaster planning on the agenda of agency and community meetings to help keep formal and information relationships intact. Make sure you continue to listen to people who have experience being homeless.
Every year, appoint a different network member organization to be responsible for updating contact information, ensuring any Memorandums of Understanding or Memorandums of Agreement are up-to-date, and making other changes to keep the plan relevant.
Locate existing disaster planning documents and contact information
Checklist to determine if the needs of homeless populations are addressed in existing plans
Guides and factsheets from FEMA
List of common terms used in disaster planning and response to homelessness
Checklist of organizations, agencies, and individuals to include in disaster planning that addresses the needs of homeless people
Sample agenda for a kickoff meeting
Survey to get perspectives and insights from key individuals
Handout that covers the two sides of the disaster planning landscape
Where to go for the stats you’ll need about homelessness in your community
Guidance on the data you can find in your local community to inform yourself about the scope and nature of homelessness in your community
A form to capture important information about service providers in your community
How to make your plan better for addressing the needs of homeless people after a disaster
Links to useful resources on disaster planning for homelessness