Living on the streets comes with many health complications, most of which people with stable housing never think twice about. If you know you have a place to call home with heat and running water many of these ailments wouldn’t cross your mind.
You may stub your toe or hit your knee on the bed post but you aren’t at risk for stepping on glass because your shoes are covered in holes or accidentally catching your tent on fire trying to keep warm in the winter. Homelessness comes with a higher rate of injuries and even mortality. Falls and getting hit by cars are the top causes of injuries that lead to mortality in the homeless.
Poor nutrition is rampant in the homeless community because they can’t physically get to or afford consistent access to healthy, fresh food. Many homeless people get by on eating fast food or canned food which is high in sugar and sodium if they eat anything at all. For those struggling with addiction this is even more serious because when given the choice between a healthy meal and their drug of choice, they would rather go hungry and high or drunk.
Water is heavy and hard to carry around which makes it hard for people living out of a tent to keep some on them. For homeless people that have an alcohol abuse problem, dehydration is the silent killer. In the heat of the Austin sun, failure to drink enough water and stay out of the sun can mean death.
We can all catch the occasional cold or flu but living on the streets comprises peoples immune systems in many ways. Constant exposure to the elements like the hot sun and windy rain make it hard to stay warm and dry. Poor nutrition and hygiene are exacerbated by overcrowded shelters and a lack of access to health care. The rate of sexually transmitted diseases like Hepatitis A, B and C and HIV is much higher among homeless citizens than the general public.
There are many ways to help facilitate preventative care among the homeless community. Organize donation drives for greatly needed hygiene items like toothbrushes, toothpaste, bar soap, deodorant, etc. If you are a nurse or other medical practitioner volunteer to provide routine screenings. The easiest way to help is donate money to organizations that help provide health care and healthy meals to the local homeless community.
Homelessness is a known humanitarian issue in Austin, and according to the numbers, there’s some good news and some bad news regarding the battle to decrease the number of homeless individuals in the Texas capitol city.
The good news is that, according to KVUE ABC, there was an overall 25% reduction in youth homelessness, and a decrease in homeless veterans in Austin between 2018 and 2019.
The city of Austin began a program in 2017 with LifeWorks to help lower the number of homeless youth on the streets, and that program appears to be working.