The impact of the problem
Homelessness affects up to one percent of the US population and is two to five times more prevalent in the US than in Western Europe. On any given night, more than 610,000 persons in the United States are homeless; a little more than one-third of these are families.
Homeless persons are more likely to become ill, have greater hospitalization rates, and are more likely to die at a younger age than the general population. The average life span for a homeless person is between 42 and 52 years. Homeless children are much sicker and have more academic and behavioral problems.
What are the causes?
Insufficient personal income and the lack of affordable housing are the major reasons for homelessness.
A complex, unique challenge
Complex, advanced medical problems and psychiatric illnesses, exacerbated by drug and alcohol abuse, in combination with the economic and social issues (such as the lack of housing and proper transportation) make this subset of the population a unique challenge for the health care system, local communities, and the government.
An integrated, multidisciplinary health care team with an outreach focus, along with involvement of local and state agencies, seems best suited to address the components needed to ensure quality of care, to help make these patients self-sufficient, and to help them succeed.
Family physicians are well suited to manage the needs of the homeless patient, provide continuity of care, and lead these multidisciplinary teams
Care of the Homeless: An Overview. Maness DL, Khan M. Am Fam Physician. 2014 Apr 15;89(8):634-640.