Homelessness is an area I crave a deeper understanding of, because it is a complex issue that I am confronted with most days I leave my house. Like many, I feel paralyzed in how to help when I encounter individuals on the street, and often end up simply dismayed by the depth and breadth of an issue that can’t possibly be addressed in a passing encounter.
I appreciated seeing a comment published this week in Nature Reviews Disease Primers discussing the multifactorial needs for addressing healthcare for people experiencing homelessness (1). The paper is a brief two pages with an overview of the complex driving factors of homelessness (structural, systemic and individual/relational factors) as well as how health systems can effectively direct people to care. It highlights several important features:
- The population of people experiencing homelessness is expanding and diversifying
- Homelessness arises from complex drivers, including structural, systemic and individual/interpersonal factors. These must be taken into account when addressing the needs of care for people experiencing homelessness.
- Differences in mortality between homeless people in Canada and the U.S. highlight importance of social institutions for ensuring health in this population
- The homeless population experiences outlandish barriers to accessing adequate healthcare, and experience research-demonstrated bias in quality of care
- Healthcare providers have a unique role in potentially establishing relationships with individuals experiencing homelessness, monitoring for cues of harm, referring to adequate services and ensuring those services are accessible.
Having family who have been homeless, and other family who are dependent on social services in the U.S., I know the issue is complex, and I know that referring people to services (especially if those services are understaffed, underfunded, or difficult to access) is not comprehensive.
I’m sharing this article today because I desire a deeper understanding of this topic, and was happy to see it being highlighted by a major research publishing group. If you are at all close to this topic, or merely curious, I encourage you to click over and check it out.
Cited Resources (which are live links):
- Liu, M., Hwang, S.W. Health care for homeless people. Nat Rev Dis Primers 7, 5 (2021). https://doi.org/10.1038/s41572-020-00241-2