Health Care Issues


Poor health is both a cause and a result of homelessness. Many people are reduced to homelessness because of poor health, which can rapidly escalate into employment problems, financial difficulties and housing issues. Over half of personal bankruptcies in the U.S. result from health issues. Homeless persons also suffer from multiple health problems at a much higher rate than the general population due to increased exposure to the elements, disease, violence, unsanitary conditions, malnutrition, stress, and addictive substances. Additionally, conditions that require regular, uninterrupted treatment, such as tuberculosis and HIV/AIDS, are extremely difficult to treat or control among those without adequate housing.


Many homeless people who are ill and need treatment do not receive adequate medical care. Barriers can include a lack of knowledge about where to get treated, lack of access to transportation, and lack of identification. Psychological barriers also exist, such as embarrassment, nervousness about filling out the forms and answering questions properly, and self-consciousness about appearance and hygiene when living on the streets. Without health care insurance, many homeless people simply cannot pay for health services. As a result, many homeless people utilize hospital emergency rooms as their primary source of health care. Not only is this an ineffective form of care since it provides little continuity, but it is also very expensive for hospitals and the government.