Dec 12, 2020 - Politics & Policy

Americans used disaster housing more than 1 million times in 2020

A person and a pup evacuated from a wildfire near Vacaville, California, taking refuge at a Red Cross shelter.
A person and a pup evacuated from a wildfire near Vacaville, California, taking refuge at a Red Cross shelter in August 2020. Photo: Gabrielle Lurie/The San Francisco Chronicle via Getty Images

People used emergency lodging across the U.S. more than 1 million times in 2020, over four times the annual average during the past decade, the American Red Cross said.

Why it matters: The figure is a testament to how the COVID-19 pandemic, active wildfires, a relentless hurricane season and other natural disasters wracked the country this year.

What they're saying: “Families are overwhelmed coping with the greatest number of billion-dollar disasters in a single year — on top of the coronavirus pandemic,” Gail McGovern, president and CEO of the American Red Cross, said of its findings from late November.

  • “Yet through it all, more people are stepping up to help others by volunteering and giving blood through the Red Cross.
  • "Their selfless and kind-hearted actions underscore the unwavering humanitarian spirit of people in our country, and we are incredibly grateful for their willingness to give to others."

By the numbers: The pandemic forced over 50,000 blood drives to cancel, impacting more than 1 million blood donation appointments.

  • However, nearly 25,000 COVID-19 survivors have donated plasma since April. Those contributions allowed the Red Cross to ship nearly 50,000 units of blood to hospitals across the U.S. treating coronavirus patients.
Go deeper