Understanding responses to homelessness during COVID-19: an examination of Australia
Cameron Parsell, Andrew Clarke, and Ella Kuskoff.
Following the outbreak of COVID-19, governments have spent unprecedented sums of money to accommodate people experiencing homelessness, often in underutilized hotels. This intervention contrasts with the policy stasis and “poverty of ambition” that characterized responses to rising homelessness over the past decade in countries such as Australia, the UK, the US, and much of Europe. This is a situation that has prevailed despite rigorous evidence on both the harms of homelessness and the ability of policy to address it. Using Australia as a case study, this policy review examines this sudden change in approach. After detailing various initiatives to respond to COVID-19, we show how these interventions are rationalized by the threat posed to people who are homeless, and the threat posed by homeless populations—who are at high risk of contracting and transmitting the disease—to the health of the non-homeless population. We discuss how these findings contribute to debates about how the framing of homelessness as a problem shapes policy.