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Understanding the disproportionate impacts of Covid-19 on low income minority communities

In 2020, we launched two research initiatives to understand the disproportionate impact of COVID-19 on low income, racially and economically segregated communities, both drawing on our existing relationship with participants of the Justice, Housing and Health Study.

In May and June of 2020, we conducted a round of in-depth follow up interviews with 39 JustHouHS participants. Aims of this initiative are to: 1) unpack the ways the context of people’s lives informs their understanding and responses to the virus; 2) study the significant role housing and mass incarceration play in the spread of the disease; and 3) explore the economic, health and social impacts of the pandemic on the already severely marginalized. This initiative was funded by Drexel University’s Rapid Response Research & Development Fund (Principal Investigator: Ali Groves).

Also in response to the COVID -19 pandemic, in the winter of 2020-2021, we are collecting an additional wave of survey data with JustHouHS participants. This wave adds specific COVID – 19 related questions (e.g. perceptions, impact, and government response) to the many questions that JustHouHS participants have answered in the previous five rounds of the survey. Pre and post COVID 19 data comparisons will allow us to examine changes during and impacts of the pandemic. Specifically, this initiative aims to: 1) analyze trajectories of health, housing, and socio-economic well-being before and during the COVID-19 pandemic; 2) identify factors that may account for differences in COVID-19 related exposures; 3) explore the utility and perceptions of policies and services aimed to ameliorate the pandemic’s impacts; and 4) analyze how COVID-19 has impacted the availability of social and health services for JustHouHS participants. This initiative was funded by a gift from the Yale University COVID-19 Rapid Relief Fund (Principal Investigator: Linda Niccolai).

This community report shares findings from interviews with 39 JustHouHS participants in the spring of 2020, during the initial months of the COVID-19 pandemic.

  • Not only did most participants know someone who had had coronavirus, most also knew someone that had died as a result of COVID.
  • Participants described precautions they took to prevent infection: mask wearing, avoiding social interactions, and cleaning routines.
  • JustHouHS participants who were essential workers, many of whom work in health care, did not have adequate protective gear in the workplace.
  • Many participants indicated that quarantine measures had taken a toll on their mental health and community connections.
  • Most had not received a stimulus check at the time of their interview; many cited arrears & child support as the reasons they did not receive it.
  • Some JustHouHS participants were homeless, or residence was spread over multiple addresses complicating quarantine. Some JustHouHS participants provided housing to friends and loved ones during the pandemic to keep them safe.
  • Participants expressed disapproval of the federal coronavirus response, calls for a slower state re-opening, and general approval of the local government response.