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Gin JL, Balut MD, Alenkin NR, Dobalian A. Responding to COVID-19 While Serving Veterans Experiencing Homelessness: The Pandemic Experiences of Healthcare and Housing Providers. Journal of primary care & community health. 2022 Jan 1; 13:21501319221112585.
The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) provides essential care through transitional housing and healthcare for Veterans experiencing homelessness through the Grant and Per Diem (GPD) program and the Homeless Patient Aligned Care Team (HPACT), respectively. At the onset of the SARS-CoV-2 pandemic, GPD organizations and HPACT clinics faced the challenge of being essential providers tasked with ensuring the well-being of Veterans under their care. Through semi-structured interviews with 13 providers (6 HPACT health care providers representing 2 HPACT programs, and 7 GPD staff members) across the U.S., this study explored their experiences navigating the tasks of keeping Veterans safe and providing ongoing care from the start of the pandemic up to the 2021 interview dates. Both GPD and HPACT providers reported amplified safety concerns about COVID-19 infection among staff at the start of the pandemic, which diminished to a lower, stable level after a few months as adaptations made for safety became embedded in their routines. However, ongoing challenges included isolation and mental health challenges among Veterans, inherent limitations of telehealth as a care delivery avenue, provider frustration and burnout due to increased workload and frequent change, and the logistics of administering testing for Veterans to enter GPD housing. Enhanced pandemic preparedness planning for GPD organizations, funding for personal protective equipment (PPE) and providing technology to facilitate Veterans' telehealth access, and strategies for preventing provider burnout are critical to both sustaining homeless providers' capabilities during this pandemic and enhancing readiness to respond to the next public health emergency.