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Living on the Streets

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Street-Homeless500x345Living on Lower Mainland streets means more than cold nights sleeping rough. A lack of food, sleep deprivation, poor hygiene, social isolation, victimization and exposure to the weather are some of the conditions homeless individuals must survive on a daily basis.

Unfortunately getting off the streets isn't as simple as walking through the doors of a shelter and asking for help. Many shelters are full, forcing shelter staff to turn individuals away. While Lookout provided 79,294 bednights in 2014-2015, we reluctantly turned away people 20,688 times because our shelters were filled to capacity.

These conditions and stresses faced by homeless individuals have health consequences. Approxiamately 85 per cent of homeless individuals suffer from a chronic health conditions, 30 per cent have a mental illness and the homeless population is five times more likely to be hospitalized than the general public – typically for longer stays.

Research finds homeless individuals are 20 times more likely to have epilepsy, five times more likely to have heart disease and four times more likely to suffer from cancer.

"The longer one is homeless, the greater likelihood that preexisting and emergent health problems worsen (including mental health and addictions) and there is greater risk of criminal victimization, sexual exploitation and trauma."

– The State of Homelessness in Canada 2013

Homelessness Kills

The death rate for homeless people is four times greater than the rate experienced by the general population. The rate is even higher among young homeless men. On average, homeless individuals die 20 years earlier than the general population. Further to that, the chances of a homeless man living to the age of 75 is just 32 per cent while homeless women have a 60 per cent chance of reaching that age.

For more information:

– Dying in the streets, Megaphone Magazine, November, 2014

– The State of Homelessness in Canada 2013, Homeless Hub

 B.C. Coroners Service - Deaths Among Homeless Individuals 2007-2010

 Canadian Journal of Public Health - Homeless and Health in Canada