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How the coronavirus pandemic is affecting the homeless, and how they're being helped

Doctors, advocates and others are looking to make sure people experiencing homelessness get just as much help as other Americans.

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Doctors, advocates and others are looking to make sure people experiencing homelessness get just as much help as other Americans.

Communities across the U.S. and globe are seeking to slow and stop the spread of COVID-19, a highly contagious respiratory disease.

Vulnerable populations such as people experiencing homelessness could face even greater challenges than the typical household, given difficulties in accessing health care, separating from others and more.

"There are some communities that are putting shelters, tent shelters in place that I've heard about," said Dr. Jodie Dionne-Odom, a physician-scientist at the University of Alabama at Birmingham.

A national coalition of homeless advocacy groups is calling on Congress to set aside $5 billion to help people without housing.

Maria Foscarinis, who leads the National Law Center on Homelessness and Poverty, worries the pending $2 trillion stimulus bill, agreed to by Senate leaders, won't get checks into the hands of people who need it under the extreme circumstances.

To address that, the center wants the checks to be delivered to shelters, soup kitchens food sites and pantries.

"They really desperately need this cash relief," Foscarinis said.

More than 500,000 people live in the streets every day. Many of those are veterans, children or people with disabilities.

"I think this is something that every community is going to have to try to consider at a public health level and what to do to support people who don't have a place to go," Dionne-Odom said, "since this is probably not going to be a period of just a short time, but a prolonged time where we're dealing with coronavirus in our communities."