52% of our area’s adult homeless population were working members of our community before the pandemic hit.
Today’s shelter-in-place environment has found many of our region’s workforce dealing with aggravating obstacles driven by their unexpectedly working from home. Our new 2020 work fixtures include children home from school, spotty internet, and barking dogs. While these are mere nuisances for many of us, some members of our business community are struggling with a far more serious challenge: how can one shelter-in-place—let alone continue working—when one doesn’t have a home?
Something brought to the forefront during the COVID-19 crisis is our reliance on businesses staffed by hourly workers, many now deemed essential workers, to provide continued access to much needed supplies. Surprisingly, some of those hourly workers who are serving you each day may, in fact, be homeless.
According to Chamber member and local non-profit, Shelter House, even before the adverse economic impact of the virus in Fairfax County, “on any given night there are typically 1,000 (people) who are homeless. Of those, 52% of the adults also work.” This is a surprising statistic given that our Region is also one of the wealthiest in the USA.
Our Region’s working homeless are members of our business community. They may be the barista at your favorite coffee shop, a delivery worker, or the stocker at your local grocery store. They may also be living in tents near public transportation, hold memberships at local gyms that double as their shower facilities, or seek help from non-profits like Shelter House to meet their daily needs.
With the advent of COVID-19, their few available resources are either closed or facing unprecedented demand. Take, for example, the lack of public resources still open for basic hygiene needs, which of course is necessary for their continued employment. Many of the services they might rely on that are still open, through the government or non-profits, will be stretched ever thinner due to the virus.
Compounding this already stressed situation, our COVID-19 world has posed challenges for both the employee and their employer, who is already planning for crisis level staffing in some cases. Virtually any business that cannot use remote workers will be challenged. A March 13, 2020 article in The Washington Post noted, “companies that feed America and provide basic staples are bracing for labor shortages as the novel coronavirus pandemic intensifies, which could leave them without enough workers to manufacture, deliver and unpack groceries in stores in the coming months.”
As the economic realities of the pandemic continue to unfold there may be more of these shelter insecure workers in the future. Businesses who depend on these in-person hourly workers may be tested as they strive to continue to provide the vital goods and services our community counts on. Continued adaptability, planning, and even more contingency planning will be the status quo for the duration of this crisis to manage an increasingly strained workforce.
Don’t forget to check the Chamber’s frequently updated COVID-19 Resources page for helpful information.
About Shelter House
Shelter House, Inc. is a community-based, non-profit organization that provides crisis intervention, safe housing, and supportive services to homeless families and victims of domestic violence in the local community. For more information, about Shelter House or to directly support its work, click here.