Due to social status, homeless people in the US are vulnerable to health problems compared to people who are drawn from high socio-economic status. Many homeless persons also tend to belong to low socio-economic families (Johnson & Haigh, 2012). Ensuring good health for such persons calls for the creation of a means of accessing quality healthcare for all people within a nation. This paper discusses the nature of vulnerabilities of homeless people in the US.
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Nature of Vulnerability
People experience the problem of homelessness when they do not have places to live in with peace, dignity, and good security. People who are considered homelessness include those who sleep in vehicles, those who live with their friends on temporary shelters, refugees, and those persons who live in houses that do not have tenure security. The nature of the problem of homelessness depends on the adopted definition. Indeed, all persons who do not have regular, enough, and fixed residence are legislatively considered homeless. They also include people who sleep in private or public places that were not designated for occupation by people during their design phase. All persons living in temporary accommodation facilities awaiting institutionalization are also considered homeless in the US.
Homelessness causes can be classified as structural, for instance, poverty, lack of sufficient supply of affordable housing, and unemployment challenges that continue to ruin many nations across the globe (Hafetz, 2009). Other causes include public and social policy problems, for instance, community and public housing policies, education, and expenditure without negating taxation policies. Health challenges associated with homelessness also include ill health, fragmentation of families, intellectual disability, domestic violence, alcohol and drugs dependency-associated problems, and mental illness among others.
In a social study, acquiring 100% accurate data is incredibly challenging. Hence, the available data is only based on estimations. The estimates are mainly based on national averages. However, community estimates may considerably vary with respect to local geographies. However, the Department of Housing and Urban Development provides the most accurate data on homelessness in the US. It issues an annual homeless assessment report to the US Parliament. The reported data is drawn from “single-night, point-in-time counts of both sheltered and unsheltered homeless populations reported on the Continuum of Care applications” (The US Department of Housing and Urban Development, 2009, p.6). The other source entails counts for homeless and sheltered persons in the year as extracted from community samples. Such data is extracted from HMIS of the communities. Therefore, the statistical findings shown in the graph 1 below are based on close comparison of the data from the national and community statistics.
Statistical data for homeless people in the US varies according to familial composition, marital status, ethnicity, substance abuse, education levels, mental health, and employment status among other demographic characteristics such as geography and duration.
Federal and State Policies for Reducing Homelessness
Different federal and states policies have been established to deal with homelessness. For example, the State of New York’s policies, including the permanent supportive housing strategy among others, have been proven effective in ending homelessness. The US also has federal housing policies such as the federal housing assistance. Two major programs under this category are housing vouchers and public housing programs. The programs have proven effective in providing stable housing to the homeless segments across the US.
Measuring Healthy People 2020 Objectives
To deal with challenges of homelessness, Healthy People 2020 targets to increase the accessibility to quality healthcare for homeless people who live with mental illness. Its target is 41% by 2020 (Healthy People 2020, 2012). This target was based on the 2006 baseline study in which 37% of the target population accessed health care. Healthy People 2020 has endeavored to achieve this objective, although hindrances such as new cases of mentally ill people becoming homeless persist. However, by 2020, this objective will be achievable.
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Role of Nurses in the Homeless Population Segments
The Department of Communities and Local Government (2012) observes that poor health can cause poverty and hence homelessness. For instance, poor health can have impacts on an individual’s ability to engage in productive employment or education, which is an important aspect in poverty alleviation. Poor health can also cause people to sacrifice necessities, including housing, to meet various medical care and treatment costs. From the paradigm of public health in general, poverty has immense negative impacts on it.
The link between poor health and homelessness implies that nurses have a role to play in managing the problem. Nursing services are important in alleviating suffering through the diagnosis and treatment of people. Nursing leaders have the responsibility of participating in healthcare advocacy (Shelley, Ghinwa, Ray, & Fridkin, 2015) for individuals, families, communities, and the general population. Nurses are stakeholders within the health care sector, which focuses on the care of individuals, families, and communities. Its goal entails ensuring that people attain optimal health and quality life. Therefore, by ensuring quality health care, nurses reduce the problem of homelessness associated with poor health.
A full realization of the challenge of providing quality health care to all persons, irrespective of their socio-economic status, has seen many nations attempt to implement programs for universal health care. However, many nations, including the US, reduce cases of homelessness. Upon noting that homelessness may be caused by poor health or lead to poor health, nurses play the roles of reducing the problem by ensuring delivery of quality care to families and individuals.
Hafetz, J. (2009). Homeless Legal Advocacy: New Challenges and Directions for the Future. Fordham Urban Law Journal, 12(5), 1222-1229.
Healthy People 2020. (2012). Objective Topic Areas and Page Numbers. Web.
Johnson, R., & Haigh, R. (2012). Social psychiatry and social policy for the twenty-first century–new concepts for new needs: the ‘psychologically informed environment. Mental Health and Social Inclusion, 14(4), 30–35.
National Alliance to End Homelessness. (2015). The State Of Homelessness in America. Web.
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The Department of Communities and Local Government. (2012). Rough sleeping statistics England – Autumn 2011 experimental statistics. London: Department for Communities and Local Government.
The US Department of Housing and Urban Development. (2009). The Annual Homeless Assessment Report to Congress. New Jersey, NJ: The US Department of Housing and Urban Development.