Homeless people are rarely included in disaster planning, have higher rates of mortality and injury, and take longer to recover from disasters.
So how can we include them more fully in disaster planning? The answer is that not enough research has been done for a fully informed strategy – but there are broad principles for improvement.
CQUniversity researchers Dr Danielle Every and Dr Kirrilly Thompson have reviewed the scarce studies available about the vulnerability and resilience of homeless people, and have reported their findings in The Australian Journal of Emergency Management.
They point out that the contemporary focus of disaster management is all about building individual and community resilience.
“However, resilience policies and programs that don’t acknowledge the effects of social and economic vulnerability on disaster resilience mean that many people and groups are being asked to prepare for, respond to and recover from disasters without the existing resources to do so.” they conclude.
“Full inclusion in disaster resilience for any vulnerable group can only be one part of a broader socially inclusive economic and social system.
“Building on existing community links and existing knowledge about outreach, funding support and education is one part of the broader push towards reducing vulnerability.”
Dr Every and Dr Thompson, who are based at CQUniversity’s Appleton Institute in Adelaide, say that disasters may overwhelm relief agencies, who will need to look after new clients as well as those who were homeless beforehand.
“Despite not appearing to have a home or mainstream income, homeless people still face displacement and loss of income following a disaster.
“Safe places and sleeping places may be inaccessible and they are also unable to earn money from small enterprises.
“There may be disruption and loss of services provided to homeless people, which can affect recovery.”