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#COVID19 #StayAtHome: What home? Caring for the vulnerable in U.S. cities

04/04/2020

Cities are the front lines, immediately addressing this crisis and taking actions to protect public health and ensure public safety while continuing to provide core services to our citizens. (w)e are at the beginning of this pandemic, and further action must be taken to address the public health and economic impacts of this disaster…

Statement issued by Mayors of the U.S. Coalition of Cities against Racism and Discrimination

U.S. cities are mobilizing to protect the most vulnerable among us to help them through this unprecedented crisis.

An online platform “Covid-19: What Mayors Need to Know” was created by the U.S. Coalition of Cities against Racism and Discrimination, under the aegis of the United States Conference of Mayors, in collaboration with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS). This platform provides resources and guidelines, including practical how-tos for households, school establishments, businesses, healthcare structures, communities, and law enforcement agencies. In this online hub, good practices on city-led efforts to address the safety and protection of citizens abound.

Many cities leave no stone unturned in protecting their citizens and the most vulnerable populations.

The New York City COVID-19 website offers detailed information and guidelines on city services. All New York City residents have access to free Coronavirus testing. Citizens without health insurance can apply through the New York State of Health. Individuals who are being harassed due to their identity and origin are protected through the City’s Law Enforcement Bureau. Based on the New York City Declaration of “Protections Based on Immigration Status and National Origin”, no one can be discriminated in public spaces, including hospitals and health care centers. Mayor Bill de Blasio has activated the COVID-19 Emergency Relief Fund to provide resources and support to health care workers and essential staff, local small businesses, displaced hourly workers, including immigrant workers and families, youth, and vulnerable New Yorkers.

In Boston, updates on the COVID-19 response are also accessible through the city’s online platform. Mayor Marty Walsh leads the interventions conducted by the city’s agencies on housing, homelessness, public health, human services and public safety. City officials are working around the clock to support emergency shelter, day centers, community meal sites and street outreach providers to homeless families and individuals.

Chicago offers a Coronavirus Response Center, a one-stop online resource for its inhabitants, including immigrant communities. In partnership with local associations, the City is offering shelters for the homeless, medical services to the uninsured through the community health centers, and delivering food to queer and transgender individuals, regardless of immigration status.

In San Francisco, Mayor London Breed ordered a moratorium on residential evictions and on non-payment of rent. As other cities, the City provides guidelines through its COVID-19 response website. It proposes a new and expanded procedure for when a tenant has missed a rent payment due to the current crisis.

In Los Angeles’ COVID response website, frequently asked questions are made available to all citizens, including information on the availability of free meals to students depending on school meal tickets and shelter beds for the homeless.

Too many Angelenos lack a basic necessity that will help most of us get through this crisis: a home. We are taking immediate, urgent action to slow the spread of COVID-19 by helping people who are experiencing homelessness come indoors.

Mayor Eric Garcetti, Los Angeles

Mayor Eric Garcetti ordered the opening of temporary shelter beds to be made available to the homeless population by converting recreation centers at city parks, including the installation of more than 360 hand-washing stations and 120 mobile bathrooms at encampments.

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UNESCO's International Coalition of Inclusive and Sustainable Cities – ICCAR, launched in 2004, is a city-level platform that undertakes a wide range of initiatives – from policymaking, capacity-building to awareness-raising activities. It advocates for global solidarity and collaboration to promote inclusive urban development free from all forms of discrimination.

The U.S. Coalition of Cities against Racism and Discrimination is part of ICCAR.

The ideas and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily represent the views of UNESCO. The designations employed and the presentation of material throughout the article do not imply the expression of any opinion whatsoever on the part of UNESCO concerning the legal status of any country, city or area or of its authorities, or concerning its frontiers or boundaries.