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Health Issues Faced by the Homeless Community

Health issues are a double-edged sword when it comes to homelessness. Health issues, particularly mental health problems, often lead to homelessness. And being homeless often paves the way for any number of acute and chronic health problems. It is an unfortunate, cyclical scenario with no easy resolutions.

As the cost of healthcare services continues to increase and the accessibility decreases, a sad reality emerges. Common health problems occurring among the homeless community include:

  • Mental health problems
  • Substance abuse problems
  • Bronchitis and pneumonia
  • Problems caused by living outdoors
  • Wound and skin infections

Health problems continue to be one of the top 5 reasons people who are homeless cite as the cause for their homelessness.

Mental Illness and Homelessness

People with severe mental illness are overrepresented in the homeless population as the result of often being discharged from hospitals or released from jails without proper support. These health issues are particularly difficult to resolve and to help rehabilitate. For a large percentage, this may simply not be possible.

The Risks of Being on the Street

Life on the streets is a scary proposition for anyone but especially for children.
Physical and sexual assault are common. In addition, any number of health problems are caused by homelessness and being out in the elements without proper clothing, shoes and nutrition. Exposure to extreme heat and cold have the potential to cause any number of illnesses and even death. Dental health is typically compromised due to lack of treatment, which can lead to further health issues.

Infectious diseases, brought on by intravenous drug use, unprotected sex, poor nutrition, compromised immune systems, limited access to proper hygiene and crowded shelters, are also common among the homeless. Hepatitis A, B and C is frequently present. The homeless are also at greater risk of tuberculosis and AIDS. 

Contact the Bay Area Rescue Mission directly to learn more about what we do and how you might assist. Contact us at (510) 215-4555. Just tell us what you have in mind as a means for helping the homeless community we serve. BARM changes lives by providing emergency shelter, meals, and many other services in the Bay area. We are located at 200 Macdonald Avenue in Richmond.

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