Homeless People as a Vulnerable Population
Homeless people are a part of a vulnerable population who face a very real risk of developing health issues at a rate higher than the rest of the population due to certain disadvantages and co-morbidities. The homeless population is often exposed to the harsh elements of the weather and lack access to basic necessities such as food, shelter, clothing, and medication. Housing in shelters and transitional homes are not constant and reliable, leaving the homeless population no choice but to spend their days and nights out in the streets. A vulnerable population is defined as those who are at a higher risk than others of developing health issues due to their social status, personal finances, lack of access to resources, or personal characteristics such as age, gender, and/or race (De Chesnay & Anderson, 2012). People facing homelessness may be suffering from one or all of these risk factors making the barriers difficult to overcome. This paper will present homeless people as a vulnerable population and the demographics of this population on a local, state, and national level. Self-reflection, personal biases, and social attitudes and stereotypes will also be discussed. The Perceived Stress Scale will be presented and applied to this population to evaluate the perceptions of stress and the resources used to combat this threat. Homelessness Demographics
The 2013 Annual Homelessness Assessment to Congress presented by the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) found that on a single night in January 2013 there were approximately 610,042 suffering from homelessness in the United States, with 394,698 of those people in sheltered locations and the remaining 215,344 people residing in unsheltered locations (HUD, 2013). Nearly one fourth of homeless people comprise of children under the age of 18 and families represent 15 percent of the homeless population (HUD, 2013). On a state level California accounted for more than 29 percent of the United State’s homeless population in 2013 and 66 percent of those homeless people were unsheltered (HUD, 2013). At a local level Los Angeles City and New York City accounts for practically 1 in 5 homeless people nationally, with more than 12 percent in Los Angeles (HUD, 2013). California contains the largest percentage of homeless people in the United States and Los Angeles has the highest percentage of the homeless people situated within a city, sharing this distinction with New York. Personal Awareness and Prejudices
I have been a nurse in a county hospital for the last 4 years and the majority of my patients have been indigent or from a lower socio-economic population. I have often encountered and provided care for patients suffering from homeless. My honest opinion of this population is they are usually suffering from poor hygiene, are covered in lice and scabies, and can be demanding, rude, and are not always compliant with medical care. Many negative myths about the homeless exist such as “having poor coping mechanisms and not being able to benefit from psychosocial interventions” (Dykeman, 2011, p. 33). There is the pervasive stereotype that homeless people do not want help or are homeless because it is a lifestyle choice (Seager, 2011). One homeless patient always remains in my mind; she comes to our facility frequently because she lives right outside our doors on the streets. She is an older Hispanic female that suffers from a chronic diabetic ulcer on her leg. Due to poor medication compliance, unsanitary living conditions, and lack of access to basic hygiene her diabetic ulcer frequently becomes infested with street maggots and she develops blood sepsis. I often get the impression that I encounter homeless patients more often than other nurses on a daily basis. I am not surprised to find out that Los Angeles has the highest percentage of homelessness in the state, and is 2nd in the nation. Personal Attitude after...
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