Understanding the Impact of Homelessness on Health and Wellbeing by Rhea Ford
In the United States, homelessness is an often-overlooked issue that has massive impacts on the health and wellbeing of families nationwide. David H. Crean (Board of Directors) wrote about the consequences of homelessness on the youth, demonstrated through a variety of studies. For instance, statistics show that homeless children are more likely to develop various physical and mental health-related problems. These in turn have an impact on their likelihood of lacking access to education, accompanied by greater exposure to trauma and instability during their upbringing. However, all of these issues are preventable by addressing the root causes of the problem.
In particular, the youth homeless population is especially vulnerable to mental illness. Recent statistics from Verywell Mind show that 60 percent of an estimated 42 million youths have reported experiencing mental health issues. Anxiety, depression, and suicidal thoughts are among some of the traumatic ways in which homelessness manifests. In addition, a study from the Boston Medical center on the effects of housing instability found that being late on rent and having a homeless child further increased the likelihood of mental health issues. Maternal depressive symptoms were common among these families, along with instances of food and energy insecurity. Lacking access to mental health resources such as medication and counseling further exacerbates these issues.
On top of the mental health issues associated with incidences of homelessness are physical health problems. For instance, Medline outlines some of the common physical health problems that the homeless population experiences, such as HIV and AIDS, lung disease, malnutrition, and wound and skin infections. Factors that contribute to these issues include unsanitary living conditions, lack of access to food, and exposure to violence and severe weather. Homelessness may also worsen pre-existing conditions while creating new ones. Minor issues such as cuts and colds can develop into pneumonia or more serious infections if they aren’t properly treated. Maintaining a healthy diet, getting enough rest, and recuperating from injury and illness is almost impossible on the streets and in shelters.
From these incidences of mental and physical health problems, it’s clear that poverty is a major factor when it comes to getting treatment and preventing them from occurring in the first place. For homeless families, a lack of access to resources often means that instead of paying for necessary health services, they can only afford basic services such as food and water. In a Marcus article explaining the link between physical and financial health, psychologist Dr. Nancy Molitor explains how familial attitudes are often inherited: “Money’s complicated because very few young people get explicit training or education in money. We don’t learn about money, we experience it. We watch how our parents handled money.” For the youth, this means that the cycle of being unable to meet their basic needs is likely to continue, trapping the homeless population in an endless cycle.
Because the issue of homelessness is a deep-rooted one, there is no simple solution to address these issues. While feeding programs and financial aid are short-term approaches to solve the issue, breaking the cycle is what will truly benefit the homeless population. Through our Solutions University, Solutions Enterprise, and our Solutions in the Community we have provided a comprehensive answer to the problem by giving adults a solid career foundation to transform their futures for the better. For families, this means that the youth will have access to education. Access to healthcare and long-term support services will also supplement these solutions, giving them a more sustainable livelihood.
Exclusively written for SolutionsForChange.org By: Rhea Ford