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“Staying at home” to tackle COVID-19 pandemic: rhetoric or reality? Cross-cutting analysis of nine population groups vulnerable to homelessness in Japan 

Masami Fujita, Sadatoshi Matsuoka, Hiroyuki Kiyohara, Yousuke Kumakura, Yuko Takeda, Norimichi Goishi, Masayoshi Tarui, Masaki Inaba, Mari Nagai, Masahiko Hachiya & Noriko Fujita

Tropical Medicine and Health 
volume 48, Article number: 92 (2020)



Although the “stay-at-home” order is advocated against the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19), the lives of individuals lacking adequate housing are threatened. We developed a framework to assess various populations with unstable housing in terms of socio-economic consequences of COVID-19, risk of COVID-19 infection and progression, existing/urgent measures, and remaining challenges. Within the framework, nine groups vulnerable to homelessness in Japan were classified into (i) “people without accommodation,” (ii) “people living in temporary or crisis accommodation,” and (iii) populations that include “people living in severely inadequate and insecure accommodation.” The assessment revealed that “staying at home” was physically and practically unattainable across groups. The study identified specific institutional, social, and cultural challenges apart from the common economic crisis, whereas the utilization of social welfare was low. Findings suggest that the rapid increase of groups classified as “(i)” and “(ii)” should be addressed by engaging stakeholders to enhance the availability and accessibility of social welfare and rescue measures, and to ensure safe and private accommodations for all groups. It is critical to enhance multi-sectoral collaboration in responding to the common and specific vulnerabilities of these population groups from health, socio-economic, and humanitarian perspectives. Under the pandemic, homelessness should be regarded less as a peculiar problem for specific populations but an extension of daily life. The framework can be a reference when planning the comprehensive yet concise assessment of populations with unstable housing in other countries to inform responses to the pandemic.