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This article is part of a series. Start here and follow the path through the guide to build a comprehensive understanding of homelessness.
Homelessness has implications for individuals, families, communities, and society. Here, we dive into the many ways that homelessness interferes with our ability to live good lives and advance good work.
Impacts of Homelessness on Individuals
Depending on where homeless individuals are in their lives, the effects of homelessness are different. For example, homeless students' educations suffer:
- Housing Instability Is The Largest Indicator Of Chronic Absenteeism
A project funded by Poverty Solutions at the University of Michigan found that housing instability is the largest predictor of chronic absenteeism.
The biggest gap for homeless individuals is health:
- Understanding Housing As A Health Issue
Thomson Reuters Foundation
Data and doctors’ experiences are leading to a better understanding of housing as a key factor in determining health.
Individuals face a multitude of health-related concerns from the ordinary to the extraordinary. Local conditions will dictate the nature and extent of these issues, but it is important to understand what the homeless community in your area faces. These examples can give you an idea of concerns to watch out for:
- This Sock Company Is Helping Solve An Overlooked Aspect Of Homelessness
In 2017, the National Alliance to End Homelessness reported that every night more than 500,000 Americans experience homelessness, representing roughly 17 percent of the population. Of these individuals, a 2016 study on homelessness reported nearly 2/3 will experience a foot health concern.
- The Homeless Can’t Escape San Francisco’s Smoke-Ridden Air
During devastating fires in 2018 the public was warned to stay inside. Homeless individuals were unable to follow this advice, exposing them to dangerous levels of smoke pollution.
Understanding homelessness in relation to health can also help us understand how to address these issues together, as L.A. county is:
- Los Angeles Tackles Homelessness With An Innovative Housing Program
In 2012, Los Angeles County’s Department of Health Services launched a program to address homelessness among the population they served. Called Housing for Health, the program targets homeless individuals who were identified by their frequent use of county health care services. The program aims to provide long-term, affordable rental housing coupled with intensive case management services that link individuals with the kind of health and social services needed to sustain independent living.
Impacts of Homelessness on Public Health
Of course, the impacts of homelessness are also felt throughout a community.
- US Homelessness Crisis Is A Health Issue, Doctors And Advocates Warn
Being homeless puts more strain on health and other public services and the homelessness crisis in America has now become an issue that needs to be addressed, according to advocates and doctors around the country.
In some cases, homelessness is a barrier to disease eradication efforts:
- The ‘Disease Of Poverty’
Typhus, a bacterial infection that is sometimes life threatening, is on the rise in Los Angeles and several other U.S. cities. Public health officials say homelessness is making the problem worse and that the disease, which is associated with poverty and poor sanitation, is making a comeback in the United States.
Impacts of Homelessness on the Community
Healthcare isn't the only way in which homeless individuals interact with public services and systems:
- Syncing Data: Criminal Justice, Health, And Social Services [Video]
Long Beach is one of three pilot sites across the United States working to sync data from all its services — criminal justice, health, and social services — into one central database to better understand who has been seeking help and give them the attention they need.
And of course, the loss of homeless individuals also represents lost potential for a community:
- Honoring Those Who Died Without A Home
National Alliance to End Homelessness
It is important to set aside that frustration and urgency for a few hours on Homeless Persons Memorial Day. It is a night of remembrance to honor the lives that have passed. Not to remember “the homeless,” but rather to honor each person — each with his or her unique life story, talent, challenges, loves, and losses.
Understanding all of the complications that homelessness causes for individuals and communities can help to drive urgency around the issue and inform effective solutions.
Next, learn about who homelessness impacts.