Briefing Note: Impact of COVID-19 and its prevention measures on homeless people in Ukraine
People living in homelessness face a high risk of contracting COVID-19, and are disproportionally affected by COVID-19 response measures. OHCHR/HRMMU’s monitoring of the human rights situation of homeless men and women indicates that their access to healthcare services has been further limited due to the pandemic. Often, they do not have access to COVID-19 testing and treatment and are not provided with face masks and sanitiser. Because of the quarantine, persons living in homelessness have lost their already limited access to shelter, food, water, hygiene and sources of income. In many cases, the closure of railway and bus stations have left persons living in homelessness without shelter and access to water for drinking and hygiene purposes, essential during a pandemic. The closure of waste recycling facilities that served as a source of income for many homeless people across the country, and the closure of markets and the suspension of construction and the work of many small businesses removed one of the rare opportunities homeless people had to make a living or ask for food. OHCHR/HRMMU is further concerned that social services for homeless people are unevenly spread across Ukraine because they depend on the good will and funding of local authorities.
In six regions of Ukraine, there are no municipal shelters for homeless people. In one region, the shelter opens only in winter. In four regions, municipal shelters for homeless people do not accept new people due to the quarantine and, in three regions, homeless people have delayed and restricted access healthcare services for the mandatory medical examination required by the shelters to be admitted. In one region, the municipal shelter accepts only homeless men, excludingthe women from receiving shelter. Although the shelters have taken measures to prevent the spread of COVID-19 through frequent disinfection, the provision of personal protection equipment for staff and residents and limits on movement outside the shelter, often they do not have sufficient space within the premises to allow for self-isolation of newly arrived persons.
OHCHR/HRMMU calls for the Government to guarantee effective access of homeless women and men to medical testing and adequate medical assistance, as well as information on the pandemic and prevention measures; to ensure that homeless women and men in all regions of Ukraine have access to shelter, clean water and hygiene, food and livelihood opportunities, and are free from violence and abuse, in accordance with the recommendations of international bodies.