Behavioral Health Providers' Experience with Changes in Services for People Experiencing Homelessness During COVID-19, USA, August-October 2020

J Behav Health Serv Res. 2022 Oct;49(4):470-486. doi: 10.1007/s11414-022-09800-9. Epub 2022 May 26.


The COVID-19 pandemic caused disruptions in behavioral health services (BHS), essential for people experiencing homelessness (PEH). BHS changes created barriers to care and opportunities for innovative strategies for reaching PEH. The authors conducted 50 qualitative interviews with behavioral health providers in the USA during August-October 2020 to explore their observations of BHS changes for PEH. Interviews were transcribed and entered into MAXQDA for analysis and to identify salient themes. The largest impact from COVID-19 was the closure or limited hours for BHS and homeless shelters due to mandated "stay-at-home" orders or staff working remotely leading to a disconnection in services and housing linkages. Most providers initiated telehealth services for clients, yielding positive outcomes. Implications for BHS are the need for long-term strategies, such as advances in communication technology to support BHS and homeless services and to ensure the needs of underserved populations are met during public health emergencies.

MeSH terms

  • COVID-19*
  • Housing
  • Humans
  • Ill-Housed Persons*
  • Pandemics
  • Public Health