Homelessness and Health Care

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Although the tipping point is often the loss of a job, sickness or injury often precede it. Sickness and injuries make holding a job difficult, which leads to income declining and homelessness for those without a safety net. Due to the mostly employer-based health insurance coverage system in the U.S., no job means no health insurance. The combination of unemployment and poor health can then lead to financial ruin. Nerdwallet estimated that 57.1 percent of U.S. personal bankruptcies are due to medical bills, making it the leading cause of the financial calamity that often precedes homelessness.

We can learn from how one doctor addressed hunger, another so-called health-related social issue or “social determinant of health.” Decades ago, Jack Geiger founded the first federally funded community-health center in the U.S. There, he began giving impoverished patients prescriptions for food using its pharmacy funds. Nervous about this practice, federal officials tried to stop him, but Geiger responded, “The last time we looked in the book, the specific therapy for malnutrition was food.”

The specific therapy for homelessness and its associated health issues is housing.

How Health and Homelessness are Connected—Medically: This doctor examines the web of medical conditions that lead to and compound homelessness, and vice versa, The Atlantic, 01/25/2016, written by Seiji Hayashi