Barriers to Healthcare for the Homeless Population

Topics: Homelessness, Homelessness in the United States, Health care Pages: 5 (1426 words) Published: May 22, 2011
Barriers to Healthcare for the Homeless Population
Dana Duggan
University of Phoenix

Sheila De Vaugh, APRN, BC
August 3, 2009

A homeless person is defined as someone “who lacks a fixed, regular adequate night time residence or a person who resides in a shelter, welfare hotel, transitional program or place not ordinarily used as regular sleeping accommodations, such as streets, movie theaters, cars, abandoned buildings, etc.” (Cone, 2008, p. ). Homelessness is a growing problem in the United States that affects the psychological and physical aspects of its victims. Two of the fastest growing subpopulations of the homeless are single mothers and families. The word homeless implies being extremely vulnerable and more susceptible to health problems. The homeless population faces many health disparities, just a few are inadequate healthcare, prejudices, and lack of available resources.

This paper focuses on identifying barriers to decrease health disparities among the homeless population. It also evaluates the presence of these barriers among healthcare professionals, why these barriers exist, and presents a possible solution to problems that the homeless population faces. The plan of action and the intended goal focuses on increasing awareness of the special needs that the homeless population require, while reducing hospitalizations and emergency room visits. Identification of Barriers

The homeless population face many barriers when it comes to receiving quality healthcare. Healthcare providers should provide unbiased care to all patients. However, the homeless have been branded with a certain stigmata of being beligerant, dirty, drunks. They are usually uninsured and frequent the emergency rooms using them as their primary means for treatment of their chronic health problems. The majority of the homeless are usually brought in via the 911 system because they were found intoxicated on a park bench or lying under some trees. During the winter and summer months the number of visits will increase with the severe weather changes. Some will even feign illness just to get a warm bed, some food and a bath. It is these patterns that incite the prejudices that the homeless experience in healthcare organizations.

Due to the frequency that homeless people are brought in for intoxication, it is the status quo to “treat them and street them”. They are usually not provided a thorough assessment, because they are intoxicated and unkempt. It is common practice to let them sleep it off, get them some food and send them on their way when they wake up. Healthcare professionals feel that these individuals are a waste of their time because no matter what treatment they provide the cycle will continue and they will return in a couple of days with the same health problems. Nurses also feel they are taking up precious emergency room beds from people who truly need them.

The lack of resources for the homeless population is also a defining factor in the lack of quality healthcare that they receive. In many emergency rooms the only resources available for the homeless is a list of shelters. Some of these shelters have been closed down and the majority had 3-4 week waiting periods. These shelters did not provide any means for healthcare, only food and a place to sleep for the night. If a shelter does have availability, then the individual would have to find transportation usually across town to be there by three o’ clock then wait in line and hope that the availability had not been filled. These individuals are provided a doctor’s name and a list of low-cost clinics by the nurses, in order to follow-up for their medical problems. It is a common occurance that proper follow-up is not going to take place, and the healthcare system is only contributing to the cycle of non-adherence. Course of Action and Goals

On average there are approximately three and a half million homeless in the...

References: Basics of Homelessness (2009). The Journal of the American Medical Association. 301 (17): 1771-1778. Retrieved on August 1, 2009.
Cole, P.M. (2008). Caring for the vulnerable: Perspectives in nursing theory, practice, research. Jones and Bartlett.
Leuning, C.J. & Bunkers, S.S. (2001). On global health and Justice: A nursing theory- guided perspective. Nursing Science Quarterly 14: 297.
National Healthcare for the Homeless Council (2002). Retrieved on July 28, 2009 from
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