December 10, 2019

EPIC Exchange

Don't keep this great resource to yourself! Please share it with your colleagues and networks. If you would like more information on Emergency Preparedness and Response, visit CDC's Emergency Preparedness & Response website.

Learning Opportunities and Resources


Disaster Recovery Homelessness Toolkit – The Disaster Recovery Homelessness Toolkit is for local governments, continuums of care, and service providers that want to ensure comprehensive and inclusive disaster planning, response and recovery, and long-term recovery efforts. The toolkit offers a framework for collaboration between local governments and service providers necessary to meet the needs of homeless and vulnerable populations during and after a disaster.

Disaster Response for People and Families Experiencing Homelessness: A Trauma-Informed Approach – People experiencing homelessness typically have limited resources and likely have past exposure to traumatic events. Therefore, they may be at higher risk of adverse physical and psychological reactions following a public health emergency or disaster. Trauma-informed approaches can help disaster responders effectively serve homeless individuals and families. A trauma-informed approach to disaster response acknowledges past trauma and the current impact it may have on the lives of anyone receiving services or support. Sensitivity to trauma can improve communication between responders and the homeless and facilitate compliance with public health directives.

Holiday Travel Tips – ’Tis the season to visit loved ones at home or abroad. Or, maybe you are taking a holiday vacation. Whether you’re seeking a winter wonderland or escaping subzero temperatures, follow these travel tips for a healthy and safe holiday travel season.


EPIC Exclusive


Bobby Watts, Chief Executive Officer
National Health Care for the Homeless Council

What is the mission of your organization?

The mission of the National Health Care for the Homeless Council is to end homelessness by ensuring comprehensive health care and secure housing for everyone. We do this by delivering training and technical assistance to the 300 Federally Qualified Health Center (FQHC) Health Care for the Homeless (HCH) programs, medical respite programs, and other health centers and organizations. We also advocate for policies to end homelessness.

What is the role of your organization in a public health emergency?

As a national organization providing training, technical assistance, and advocacy, our role in public health emergencies begins before the emergency by promoting learning and dissemination of best practices among health care providers and people experiencing homelessness. Unfortunately, many emergency preparedness plans of organizations, cities, and states do not consider the needs of people experiencing homelessness. The Council has developed a rich library of resources that show how emergency preparedness plans can account for the needs of people experiencing homelessness before the emergency, during the emergency, and after the emergency. People experiencing homelessness who stay on the streets and in encampments are among the most vulnerable during natural disasters because they don’t have the protective elements afforded by shelter. Yet, they are the least likely to be targeted for help. Part of our role is to promote the involvement of HCH programs in planning efforts in their local communities and with their health systems.

How do you plan for emergencies?

Leading up to emergencies with known lead-up time (such as weather emergencies), we send resources available from the government as well as materials we developed to our community in the area(s) expected to be affected. This helps them better prepare for the imminent danger. We also follow up with those in the affected areas to assess whether we or others in our community can meet immediate needs.

What is one experience or lesson learned that you have from an emergency response?

HCH providers may be the best ones in their communities to conduct a response for communities that are in the midst of an emergency. HCH clinics have experience dealing with patients without documentation, prescriptions, or medical records, and patients who are in the midst of trauma or have suffered loss every day. Communities that include HCH providers in their emergency planning and emergency response help to have a better response not only for their homeless neighbors but for everyone. 

Also, it is very important to take care of the staff. Those in the HCH community carefully consider the needs of those they serve. They, and their agencies, must be encouraged to promote self-care to recognize the trauma that staff members and their families may be experiencing.

What is one piece of advice that you would give to other EPIC partners?

Consider the needs of people experiencing homelessness in all your emergency responses and include homeless service providers in your planning. The Council is glad to help make connections in any way we can.

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Contact Us


Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
1600 Clifton Rd
Atlanta, GA 30329 

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