This year’s Homeless Count survey included a subset of questions about COVID-19 to gain a further understanding of how the pandemic has impacted Pasadena’s unhoused residents.
At the start of the pandemic, public health officials and homeless service providers feared that COVID-19 would devastate the homeless community. The high prevalence of chronic health conditions and impacts of living outdoors put this community at increased risk of serious illness or death if they were to contract the virus.
Collectively the city and county worked closely to move people indoors and into non-congregate motel rooms. Social distancing protocols were put into place at site-based shelters, as well as drastic reductions in the number of people living in shared spaces. While there have been cluster outbreaks in congregate shelters, positive cases among unhoused people have remained lower than in the general population.
Overall, only 16% of the unsheltered population reported testing positive for COVID-19.
COVID-19 Vaccination Rates Among Our Unhoused
Despite low positivity rates, only 58% of unsheltered residents reported receiving a COVID-19 vaccine, and 54% indicated they had been fully vaccinated (receiving either two doses of Pfizer or Moderna or a single dose of Johnson & Johnson). Additionally, 52% of those fully vaccinated reported receiving a COVID-19 booster or an additional dose.
Among participants who had not been vaccinated, only 22% indicated that they wanted the vaccine. This group cited barriers such as ID requirements, not knowing where to go, appointments, and transportation difficulties.
Vaccination rates varied within some of the higher-risk subpopulations. Seniors were more likely to be fully vaccinated than the general homeless population (72% vs. 54%), while people who are chronically homeless were slightly more likely not to be fully vaccinated (52% vs. 47%).
Disproportionate Impact of COVID-19 on Unhoused Latinos
Survey results indicate that Hispanic and Latino people experiencing homelessness were disproportionately impacted by COVID-19. Compared to the non-Hispanic population experiencing homelessness, unhoused Hispanic and Latino people were more likely to have had COVID-19 (19% vs. 14%).
Hispanic and Latino people experiencing homelessness were also twice as likely to indicate that the impacts of COVID-19 were a contributing factor to their housing loss. Twelve percent of Hispanic and Latino people surveyed pointed to COVID-19 as a factor in their loss of housing compared to six percent overall.
Despite these findings, Hispanic and Latino people were more likely to be fully vaccinated against COVID-19 than people who were not Hispanic or Latino (58% vs. 51%), suggesting that the increased positivity rate among this population is not necessarily the result of fewer Hispanic and Latino people being vaccinated.