A response framework for addressing the risks of climate change for homeless populations
People experiencing homeless have greater vulnerabilities in relation to climate change that require a range of policy and systems approaches. There are two interrelated areas that policymakers can consider in relation to climate change and homelessness: migration and exposure. This synthesis of the available data and expert opinion provides practical information to policymakers, with specific strategies alongside case examples. The data captured here is through systematic reviews, and expert opinion is generated through input from a year-long series of five virtual think tanks. Throughout this synthesis paper, an emphasis is placed on explicitly addressing homeless populations in the policies and plans designed to address climate change-related impacts. Prevention-oriented plans are shown to be more effective in terms of outcomes and cost-effectiveness compared to the more commonly deployed crisis response models. Another key issue considered is the availability of relevant data with which to target policy responses and evaluate outcomes. Data-driven responses tend to be more successful, though relevant data are, to date, lacking for homeless and other marginalized populations. Moreover, effective policy design in this area needs to be intersectional and inclusive, tailored to the needs of local communities and developed in consultation with lived experience stakeholders, including service providers. Policies that ignore local input tend to fail. Prevention-oriented, culturally-situated, and trauma-informed systems and services hold the greatest promise in responding to the severe health risks and inequities that homeless populations face in the climate crisis. Key policy insights Prevention-oriented measures are key, with most focussing on the availability of affordable housing and upgrading housing and living conditions of vulnerable populations. There is a need to include lived experience and input from local communities, especially when designing measures that will impact livelihoods, such as planned migration. Disaster, crisis response, and aftercare plans need to outline explicit measures for homeless populations. There is a need for cross-sectoral alignment of policy and intervention responses. Successful approaches tend to be culturally-situated and trauma-informed.
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