SARS-CoV-2; COVID-19; coronavirus infections; coronavirus infections/prevention & control; pandemics; homeless persons; risk factors; infectious disease transmission; quality improvement; patient education as topic


Behavior and Behavior Mechanisms | Community Health and Preventive Medicine | Virus Diseases


Introduction: Attitudes of those in the homeless population toward testing, particularly during a pandemic, are critical to understand, so that they and their communities may be safely triaged and protected. Homeless persons are more likely to be exposed during viral epidemics, and have greater vulnerability for more severe viral illness, due to greater medical comorbidities. The literature reflects a dearth of published papers describing the perceptions, interest, and motivations of homeless people to seek or receive viral testing, despite their status as a high-risk population.

Methods: A quality improvement project consisting of a cross-sectional survey took place at 8 SARS-CoV-2 infection testing sites (local shelters and drop-in sites) within Duval County, Jacksonville, FL.

Results: The vast majority of homeless individuals approached for testing completed demographic data and a checklist of beliefs and attitudes about testing (N=764) and underwent COVID-19 nasopharyngeal swab testing (n=679). Mean age was 48; 66% were male, and the predominant race was Black (51%) with 89% of non-Hispanic ethnicity. Of the total participants, 59.2% wanted testing and 4.6% declined testing. Attitudes toward testing varied by site and by wanting vs. not wanting to be tested. Top reasons in those wanting testing included curiosity; a belief that faith would protect them from the virus; and having shelter encouragement to be tested. Top attitudes among those not wanting to be tested were: shelter encouraged me; curiosity; and receiving a gift card. For the total group of subjects, being offered a $10 gift card did not affect their desire to be tested. Those who were not faith-influenced were less likely to want testing.

Conclusion: Findings from selected literature and this quality improvement study support the use of a variety of strategies to encourage participation in testing events with large numbers of homeless individuals, including education, gift cards, shelter staff encouragement, involvement of local faith leaders and more broad support by the community. An additional qualitative study would complement these findings, as populations appear to differ in beliefs and attitudes depending on their location and other demographics. Motivational strategies to influence testing rates can be fine-tuned if beliefs, perceptions and attitudes are better understood.

Bell_Appendix A.docx (399 kB)
Appendix A