Your environment is one of the key factors shaping your health, and being homeless is one of the harshest and most challenging environments. Homelessness and housing insecurity in the UK is worryingly on the rise – the numbers of people sleeping on the streets has increased by 132% since 2010[1].

There is widespread evidence from across the world of the negative impact of homelessness on health.

When comparing homeless people with the rest of the population, they are approximately:

  • 50 times more likely to have Hepatitis C [2]
  • 34 times more likely to have Tuberculosis[3]
  • 20 times more likely to die from drugs[4]
  • 9 times more likely to commit suicide[5]
  • 8 times more likely to have epilepsy[6]
  • 4 times more likely to have a mental health problem[7]

The infant mortality rate is around 4 times higher in the Gypsy/Traveller population.[8]

Despite these health inequalities, there is variable provision across the country to support people who are homeless.  If you become homeless, you may have to battle living with physical, mental and substance addiction conditions concurrently while dealing with other issues like relationship breakdowns, poverty and debt. Along with living in non-existent, temporary, poor, insecure, or crowded accommodation this presents additional health risks. Refugees and asylum seekers may have traumatic injuries and suffer post-traumatic stress – yet find that health services are difficult to access. Sex workers are vulnerable to mental, physical and sexual health conditions.

Nurses in the QNI’s network break down these barriers to give care to people facing some of the highest risks of poor health, and people who currently have some of the poorest access to that care. Despite these challenges there is no formal standard for the education nurses need to have about homelessness and health inequalities.

The QNI’s Homeless Health Programme is here to help nurses and any other practitioners so that together they can learn, share practice and use their experiences on the frontline to influence policy, education and practice, and ultimately to improve care for those most in need.

[1] UK Parliament

[2]  Beijer, U et al (2012) Prevalence of tuberculosis, hepatitis C virus, and HIV in homeless people: a systematic review and meta-analysis. The Lancet Infectious Diseases; 12:11, 859–870.Office of the Chief Analyst, Department of Health (March 2010) Healthcare for Single Homeless People. Department of Health.

[3] Beijer , U et al

[4] Thomas, B, Homelessness Kills, Crisis

[5]    Crisis (2011) Homelessness: a silent killer. London Dec 2011.

[6] Thomas

[7] The Unhealthy State of Homelessness, Homeless Link

[8] University College Dublin

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