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International Recovery Platform

Disaster preparedness: services for people experiencing homelessness and the pressure-cooker response

Community service providers deliver vital services to vulnerable populations. In the wake of a disaster, community service providers go beyond their normal service offerings to meet the added needs of clients. Research to date indicates that 25 per cent of community service providers effected by a disaster would not be able to reopen after a disaster, reducing the access to vital services. This paper discusses the disaster impacts on service providers for people experiencing homelessness and the possible ways to mitigate severe effects. To investigate the effects of disasters and barriers to preparedness, a survey was conducted and completed by 161 homeless service providers in Australia. A further 45 interviews were conducted. The results indicated that these service providers experience greater client demand for services and are heavily burdened during stressful and traumatic times. An increase in client presentations puts financial pressure on these organisations as well as on staff workload and staffing demands. Identifying these stresses and limitations, homeless service providers identified five initiatives to be better prepared. Initiatives include increased funding; training for staff, volunteers and clients; funds for identified infrastructure recovery; material support for clients and good inter-agency collaboration.


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