Health and Homelessness
Homelessness exists when people lack a place, which is safe, stable, and appropriate to live and sleep. Homelessness is an issue in different countries, as a considerable number of people do not have stable places to live. Most homeless people have no access to different social services and amenities, including access to health care treatment. These therefore, are vulnerable to chronic diseases, compared to the rest of the population. Homeless people are also prone to an increased use of drugs and other substances, increased mental illness, and increased level of hospitalizations, compared to the rest of the population. As Hudson and Nandy found out in their research, homeless youth registered a higher level of substance abuse (178). In this essay, I will compare various views of different authors about health and homelessness, and compare their study findings and assumptions about the same, to establish how they agree or disagree about various aspects in health and homelessness.
Hudson and Nandy compared different health issues among homeless people. These are substance abuse and high-risk sexual behaviour (178). In their study, they aimed at establishing the rate of substance abuse, high-risk sexual behaviour, and depression symptoms among youth, who were homeless. McNeil on the other hand, in his research, aimed at finding out how substance abuse among homeless people was a health concern among the population in Canada. In another study, Walls and Bell studied the correlates of the young and adult homeless youth, in engaging in survival sex. Finally, Nicholson, et al in their study, used a generalized approach to study the overall health situation of the homeless in Downtown Calgary. The findings of the different researches mainly agree about different health aspects and situations of the studied homeless populations.
First, Hudson and Nandy pointed out that both the homeless youth exposed to foster care and those not exposed to foster care use tobacco, alcohol, and other illicit substances. They also studied the variance of depression and risky sexual behaviours among the group. However, only their degree of use varied within these groups. While the homeless youth who had previously been exposed to foster care used more drugs, compared to those not exposed to foster care. They have argued that when youth are rendered homeless, they always suffer from anxiety and depression. Since these cannot access health care while on the streets, they turn to “self-medication” through use of drugs and alcohol (183).
On the same note, McNeil and Younger, in their study, confirmed that substance abuse among homeless people is the greatest hindrance to the work of social workers. This according to McNeil and Younger, this contributes to the early death of the homeless people, whenever there is an outbreak of disease, or when they fall sick by themselves. This is mainly because they cannot get access to health care services, since these are homeless (355). Walls and Bell in their research conducted among homeless people revealed that drug use, crack cocaine, and alcohol, contributed and enhanced survival sex among the homeless people (430). Therefore, all the authors who conducted studies among the homeless people agree that the prevalence of drugs and substance use among different homeless populations is prevalent. In their studies, they have all showed that homeless people lack access to health care, therefore, engaging in drug and substance abuse is one way that makes their health condition worse, making some to die at an early age.
Similarly, all the authors addressed the issue of high-risk sexual behaviours among the homeless people. Walls and Bell studied survival sex among homeless people. They established that this was a prevalent activity by the homeless people, as a means for survival. This is a health concern, as this exposes the homeless people to different sexually transmitted diseases, which most succumbed to, due to lack of access to health care. Similarly, Hudson and Nandy, whose research revealed that the homeless youth, formerly under foster care reported a higher rate of survival sex than those not previously exposed to foster care (178-80).
Nicholson et al identified HIV and other STD’s as the main reason for the deaths of many homeless people who have been homeless for at least six months (66). This therefore, indicates that there was high rate of sexual activity among the homeless people studied. On the other hand, McNeil and Younger identified sexual violence as one of the factors contributing to the poor health condition of homeless people. They argued that this was caused by drug and substance abuse, and that the female were the most affected. According to McNeil and Younger, this leads to spread of STD’s among the homeless, and this situation is aggravated by their lack of access to health care (357).
Conclusively, all the four authors have established that homeless people have difficulty accessing health care. Additionally, these have focused on two important aspects that affect the health of homeless people. These are substance abuse and high-risk sexual behaviour. These are responsible for increased mortality rates of the homeless people, since these cannot access health care to address these health issues.
Hudson, Angela and Nandy, Karabi. “Comparisons of Substance Abuse, High-risk Sexual
Behaviour and Depressive Symptoms among Homeless Youth with and without a History
of Foster Care Placement.” Contemporary Nurse, 42(2): 178–186, 2012. Print.
McNeil, Ryan and Younger, Manal. “Illicit Drug Use as a Challenge to the Delivery of End-of-
Life Care Services to Homeless Persons: Perceptions of Health and Social Services
professionals.” Palliative Medicine, 26(4) 350–359, 2011. Print.
Nicholson, Cherie, Graham, John, Emery, Herbett, Schiff, Jeanette and Giacomin, Marina.
“Describing the Health of the Absolutely Homeless Population in Downtown Calgary 2008.” Canadian Journal of Urban Research, 19(2), 62-79, 2010. Print.
Walls, Eugene and Bell, Stephanie. “Correlates of Engaging in Survival Sex among Homeless
Youth and Young Adults.” Journal Of Sex Research, 48(5), 423–436, 2011. Print.
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