January 23, 2012
Vulnerable Population: Homeless
Many factors can affect the delivery of health care. It is believed that environmental, political, economic, medical, demographic location, social, cultural, and spiritual factors can affect certain population groups and can make these groups more vulnerable than the general population. The question of who is vulnerable and what makes an individual vulnerable has caused some debates. Rogers (1997) Vulnerability is a matter of degree. It is situational and is greatly affected by personal perception. There are various terms to describe these populations, such as “underserved populations,” “ medically underserved,” “ medically disadvantaged,” “underprivileged,” and “American underclasses” (Shi & Singh, 2010, p. 255). From the factors mentioned above, socio-economic, health, and geographic locations attribute the most to their vulnerability. Identifying, who is vulnerable can be extensive as there are no specific guidelines to define vulnerability thereby leaving it open to interpretation. Many groups embody this category such as the poor, mentally ill, drug dependents, undocumented immigrants, the veterans, people with disabilities, women, the young, and the eldery. The determination who belongs in these category is difficult as there are no standards what makes a person vulnerable thereby making the list boundless. This paper will focus on the homeless, as one identified vulnerable population and its effect on the health care delivery system. Demographics
The term homelessness has a comprehensive definition. The National Coalition for the Homeless (2011) website A homeless person is someone who does not have a fixed, regular, and sufficient night-time residence. According to Shi and Singh (2010) “Approximately 3.5 million people experience homelessness each year on a national level” (p. 264). Determining the number of homeless in the streets or shelters is a challenge because of the different methods use to yield the information, thus resulting in underestimates of homelessness. Standardized reporting of data on homelessness was initiated in 2007 by the Department of Housing and Urban Development via the Annual Homeless Assessment Report to Congress, which is released in June of each year National Coalition for the Homeless, 2011). Different factors and trends attribute to the rise in number of the homeless. Poverty and unaffordable housing increase the likelihood of homelessness for certain demographic groups. It is believed that the young, the elderly, and women are the most vulnerable of the groups but homelessness appreciates no boundaries. It can affect people of all ages, regardless of gender, race or ethnicity, income, or educational level. Studies show that children account a large portion of the homeless population at 39%.; of this number, more than 40% were under the age of five. Numbers can vary in different cities, especially in rural areas. In 2004, 25% of the homeless were ages 25 to 34; the same study found percentages of homeless person aged 55 to 64 at 6% (National Coalition for the Homeless, 2011). The number of homeless families with children is also increasing in number and make up 30% of this population and is the fastest growing segment (Shi & Singh, 2010). Males are bound to be more exposed to homelessness than women. In 2007, a survey by the United States Conference of Mayors found that of the population surveyed 35% of the homeless people are members of households with children are male whereas 65% of these people are females. However, 67.5% of the single homeless population is male, and it is this population that makes up 76% of the homeless population surveyed (National Coalition for the Homeless, 2011). The United States Conference of Mayors surveyed 25 cities and found the African American homeless population to be the highest at 42%, 38%...