Homelessness and Health

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Trevor Gamache
Homelessness and Health
Homelessness has become an evolving epidemic of our time, and the health implications associated with being homeless makes it that much worse. Homeless people are at major risk for premature death and a wide range of health problems such as HIV, skin blemishes, and much more. It is very difficult for homeless people to fix their health issues due to the difficulty of accessing health care possibly because of missing health cards, or simply because of the stigma placed on them when they enter a public facility. Whatever the problem may be that is forcing more people to become homeless, it must be solved, and quickly before our world turns into a travesty. Raphael, Dennis (ed.). 2004. Social Determinants of Health: Canadian Perspectives. Toronto: Canadian Scholars’ Press. In the article titled Housing and Health by Toba Bryant, the always alarming issue about the effect of homelessness on health is thoroughly discussed. According to the Ottawa Charter for Health promotion, shelter is considered a prerequisite for health. Not only does having a home provide physical health in terms of warmth and protection from the environment, but it creates a sense of care towards one`s mental health as well. Having a home provides the feeling of being safe, and having a sense of belonging and ownership. Bryant`s article suggests that there are many conditions and ailments the homeless crowd must face. Some of these include “greater incidence of mental illness, HIV infection, and physical violence” (Dunn, 2000: 220), many of which the degree may be lessened with the presence of shelter. More specifically to Canada, a survey done by Ambrosio et al. (1992) in Toronto showed that the homeless are at higher risk for diseases such as asthma, epilepsy, arthritis, or chronic respiratory diseases. Many people already know that homelessness puts you at greater risk for premature death, and Kushner (1998) says that it shortens life expectancy by 20 years. In 1995 a study was done on 9000 homeless men who used shelters in Toronto. The results of the study were published in a report by Hwang (2000), and it was found that “young homeless men were eight times more likely to die than men of the same age in the general population.” Other studies such as the one done by Keyes and Kennedy on suicide rates showed that in the UK, homeless people are 34 times more likely to commit suicide. Unless our governments decide to act upon the alarming numbers, the people on the streets in Canada, and around the world, will continue to suffer. Some sort of housing plan must be put into place and more importantly, followed up. Gupta, Giri Raj. 1995. “Homelessness and Mental Disorder: Policy Considerations.” Journal of Social Distress and the Homeless 4(1): 33-42.

According to Gupta in her article entitled Homelessness and Mental Disorder: Policy Considerations, she believes a large number of the homeless are without homes due to untreated mental disorders. Brown (1985) suggests that the introduction of psychotropic drugs have lead to this false belief that mental patients in institutions can be released with these drugs and survive in the outside world without any supervision or complete treatment of their illness. Upon release, these patients were never followed up by any of the mental health institutions, and once assuming position outside of the walls where they were treated, many are left with little or no shelter at all (Russel, 1984). I like how Gupta brings up the situation of following up on patients, because it is an alarming issue that many do not pay attention to. Once emitted into these mental institutions, these people must leave their jobs, their families, and their lifestyle. This ultimately means no money, and no support. Therefore when they leave the institution where they have been staying, what are they to do for shelter if they have no money? How is their health suppose to get better if they...
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