Globally, the problem is many times worse, making homelessness a global public health and environmental problem. Economic stability is a social determinant of health that encompasses housing instability and homelessness. Many of the articles in this special issue focus on specific aspects of life, quality of life and comorbidities related to behavioral and social variables that influence homelessness. Recent work has emphasized the important role of public health, the health system, and health care providers in preventing homelessness.
The social determinants of health are often the same factors that lead to homelessness, so both sectors serve many of the same populations and communities. Legal and policy interventions have often been used to try to address homelessness, although not always from a public health perspective. The following resources describe homelessness as a public health problem, discuss the criminalization of homelessness in some jurisdictions, and offer examples of legal and policy approaches to addressing homelessness. Taking proactive steps to support people who are at risk of becoming homeless can help people find stable housing.
In addition to highlighting the impact that these factors can have on a person's likelihood of becoming homeless, many of the articles also provide recommendations on relevant policies, practices, and interventions that could help reduce homelessness and improve overall well-being. Housing is one of the most critical factors in addressing homelessness and one of the best-researched social determinants of health. The health problems faced by homeless people are due to several factors, such as homelessness, racism and discrimination, barriers to health care, lack of access to adequate food and protection, limited resources for social services, and inadequate public health infrastructure. Homeless people cannot get medical treatment without a health card (a permanent address is required to apply for government identification); pay for expenses that are not covered by provincial health insurance or drug plans; receive appropriate treatment in cases where their personal appearance alarms health providers; schedule a doctor's appointment (due to lack of address and telephone); and receive coordinated care when a complete medical record is not kept in one place with one single phone provider.
This crisis has highlighted that actors involved in defending public health, from agencies to health care providers, social security organizations and services for the homeless, are trapped in a shared destiny.