Historic and Current Health Care Struggles for the Homeless and Skills for Providers to Improve Care

Abstract

Hardee, S., Sanford, G., and Burnes, D. “Historic and Current Health Care Struggles for the Homeless and Skills for Providers to Improve Care.” Archives of Family medicine and General Practice, Vol.4, issue 1, pp. 76-81, 2019.

This paper discusses improvements that health care providers can integrate into their practices to better serve individuals and families experiencing homelessness. To begin, the past and present methods of care for the homeless population are described, including the government’s role in shaping the issue. Homeless individuals face immense barriers to receiving care, including fear of the health care establishment and the likelihood of judgement and disrespect. Next, methods to ease these fears and frustrations to create the optimal environment for building trust, demonstrating empathy, and providing clear communication are given. Methods to best educate and inspire patients to engage in healthy practices (e.g. peer support programs) are described. The homeless population has much higher rates of mental illness, substance abuse, and trauma given the inherent stress of existing without a permanent home. This paper outlines the challenges that each of these bring and describes how to best help the patient. Using a communication method known as trauma-informed care has proven effective for helping homeless patients with physical, emotional, sexual abuse, or other forms of trauma. Providing support for individuals and families experiencing homelessness is rewarding for all parties involved and can significantly improve lives and outcomes.
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