Healthcare & Health Policy

There are many barriers preventing individuals and families experiencing homelessness from accessing health services. To name a few: lack of identification, such as a government ID card or driver's license; inability to follow up on prescriptions (due to prohibitive cost, even with a co-pay) or continue ongoing medical “home treatment” (such as bedrest or wound care); confusing or complicated processes for accessing care; and discomfort or exclusionary treatment at healthcare facilities. But in some ways, the daily struggle for the essentials of life can be as tall a barrier as any other. A reliance on drop-ins and shelters for meals may not provide a nutritionally balanced or adequate diet. Living situations (i.e. sleeping outside, squats or crowded shelter) often result in increased disease transmittal and exposure to theft, violence, and other kinds of trauma. Many shelters require people to leave during the day, preventing someone from obtaining needed rest.1

Healthcare policies must therefore include programs and models targeted specifically to people experiencing homelessness. Examples of this include targeted clinics, fixed outreach sites such as day centers with medical facilities, and mobile outreach services.2