Health and Homelessness

The health problems experienced by homeless people may be conceptualized as those contributing to the etiology of homelessness; those arising as a direct consequence of homelessness; and those conditions exacerbated by homelessness. From a large U.S. study of homelessness and health (Institute of Medicine, 1988), conditions that contributed significantly to a person's inability to work— mental illness, AIDS, and injuries—may be seen as resulting in homelessness for those without other means of support. Other conditions (e.g., skin disorders, trauma, malnutrition, and parasitic diseases) increase and are exacerbated, or even actually caused by homelessness. Also, homelessness makes the treatment of diseases much more complicated. For example, prescribing bed rest or a special diet is impossible for individuals living in most shelters or for people relying on soup kitchens for their meals.

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