• Research, Evaluation, and Best Practices

Send Red, Not Blue: The Homeless Resident


Date Published: July 2016


This report provides recommendations on how to improve communication between local homeless services providers, disaster preparedness planners, and homeless residents themselves. It draws on the experience of two communities that have experienced frequent hurricanes and served homeless families and individuals during a disaster.

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.

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