Living on Lower Mainland BC streets means more than “sleeping rough” on cold wet nights. 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.
Health Consequences of Homelessness
The death rate for those who are homeless 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% while homeless women have a 60% chance of reaching that age. These conditions and stresses faced by homeless individuals have health consequences. Approximately 85% of homeless individuals suffer from a chronic health conditions, 30% have a mental illness and the homeless population is five times more likely to be hospitalized than the general public, and they typically stay for longer.
According to the State of Homelessness in Canada Report, 2013, “The longer one is homeless, the greater likelihood that pre-existing and emergent health problems worsen (including mental health and addictions) and there is greater risk of criminal victimization, sexual exploitation and trauma.”
Research finds that homeless individuals are:
More likely to have heart disease
More likely to suffer from cancer
More likely to have epilepsy
Well-Being of Society
Society also pays for homelessness in a less tangible way. Homelessness can be described as an extreme form of social exclusion and an indicator of social injustice. Homeless individuals are excluded because they are prevented or limited in their ability to participate in social, economic, political and cultural aspects of society. This places these individuals at a disadvantage in terms of life chances. Not only is homelessness wasteful and costly, it creates a lack of social cohesion.
Feed the Need
A healthy diet is a large component of a healthy lifestyle. Food in particular brings us together, nourishes us and combats concurrent health conditions. Lookout facilities strive to include strong food programming for our guests who otherwise would not have a healthy meal, including programs that encourage participation in the creation of a well-balanced meal. In doing so, many individuals learn to work cooperatively, problem solve and work through social interactions. Preparing and sharing a meal together increases a sense of community and provides a time to have fun and laugh together.