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Coconut Grove: Vulnerable Population Assessment

Coconut Grove is a neighborhood in the southern part of Miami Florida roughly constituted of twenty thousand people. There is a calm and relaxing atmosphere characterized by lush green lawns with tall, green trees. The well-marked and sufficiently maintained infrastructure is indicative of good living standards. It is a multicultural neighborhood as characterized by the presence of whites and Hispanics. The well-dressed residents and beautiful homes are an indication of mostly middle-income earners. However, there are homeless people in the streets who mostly look drunk and somewhat frail. This paper will discuss the prevalent health problem in this area, which a community health nurse can positively impact.

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Vulnerable Population Overview

Homelessness is evident in Coconut Grove, as characterized by shabbily dressed people in the back streets. They usually look like habitual drugs and alcohol users. They look frail as well, a characteristic of malnourishment. The most likely cause of homelessness is unemployment. Without a source of income, these people have no way of paying their rent and bills. Living in the streets poses a challenge, especially in finding clean food and water (Buckley, 2012). The homeless usually take food from trash bins, and this predisposes them to diseases and even death. Alcohol affects the ability to make sound judgments. The fact that the homeless abuse alcohol predisposes them to risky behaviors that in turn lead to poor health outcomes.

Strengths, Risk Factors, and/or Barriers

Homelessness essentially takes its origins from increased social gaps and urbanization (Gillard, 2012). Poverty, withdrawal of family support, societal isolation, failed government policies, as well as drug and alcohol addiction, are some significant factors that contribute to homelessness (Knox & McCarthy, 2012). These factors are notably resistant to simple social solutions. The homeless population is more predisposed to illnesses than the housed population, even though both populations suffer from the same spectrum if infections. Furthermore, they are more vulnerable to incidences of violence, sexual exploitation and infectious diseases such as HIV, Hepatitis C, and Tuberculosis. Despite their substantial predisposition to illnesses, they lack access to preventive and primary healthcare services (Jasinski, 2012). Furthermore, it is often impossible to move to and from medical appointments due to timing and medical expenses. Apparently, the only way these people get treatment is through the emergency department which often is expensive and ineffective.

Community Resources

The Florida Department of Health (FDOH) implemented an infection prevention control, as well as educating homeless individuals on the importance of screening to reduce the rate of infection. Promoting Health in Homeless Shelters (PHHS) is a workgroup created by the health department to work in conjunction with emergency shelter and transitional housing providers to complete the tasks above. The FDOH has also rolled out a plan to educate its staff on TB management, which is further expanded to include the prevention of other communicable diseases. Additionally, the provision of other healthcare services such as oral health, nutrition, and mental health enhances the ability to deal with risky behavior such as substance abuse and unprotected sex among the street dwellers.

The Southwest Florida Medical Reserve Corps (MRC) plays a vital role in assisting the homeless during disasters. They consist of lay personnel and medical professionals who assist in setting up special need shelters, medical care sites, and managing disaster behavioral health. The homeless who get adversely affected by disasters, therefore, find assistance from these organizations. These measures are effective but are not adequate for the homeless in Florida. Increasingly hard economic times means that the number of homeless people on the streets keeps on rising and the institutions set forth to assist the homeless strain in managing them. The services provided by these organizations have gaps because they seem to focus more on treating the homeless temporarily, rather than getting them out of the streets. A rollout of revised protocols to assist the homeless get shelters and acquire jobs is necessary to foster a significant positive impact on their lives.

Community Health Problem Diagnosis

Based on this assessment and the healthy people 2020 objectives, a community health nurse can positively impact the public health infrastructure. Any public health program like monitoring of infectious diseases, injury prevention, and immunization require professional health personnel with expertise in technical and social management skills. In as much as a robust health infrastructure depends on many organizations, public health nurses play a vital role in public health agencies, which are considered primary players in delivering public health services.


Coconut Grove, like any other neighborhood, suffers its share of social challenges. Homelessness is prevalent, with the affected individuals being associated with taking drugs and adopting the risky behavior, with respect to health. These factors leave them predisposed to infectious diseases like Tuberculosis, HIV, and Hepatitis C, among others. The Florida Department of Health has already laid out plans to tackle the issue of homelessness by deploying social health workers and collaborating with organizations to dispense health services in the streets. The services, however, do not seem to deal with homelessness effectively. The government, therefore, should put more resources to manage the homeless to curb crime, disease prevalence, and preventable deaths.

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Buckley, A. M. (2012). Homelessness. Edina, MN: ABDO Pub. Company.

Gillard, A. (2012). Homelessness. Detroit, MI: Greenhaven Press.

Jasinski, J. L. (2010). Hard lives, mean streets: Violence in the lives of homeless women. Boston, MA: Northeastern University Press.

Knox, P. L., & McCarthy, L. (2012). Urbanization: An introduction to urban geography. Boston, MA: Pearson.

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