There is an estimated 3 million homeless people in the United States. These people are at a greater risk for health problems because of the harsh living conditions associated with being homeless (Boes and Van Wormer, 1997, pg. 409).
Single women with children are the fastest-growing subgroup of the homeless population. Battered women especially without close extended family ties or are hiding from threatening men are at a high risk of becoming homeless (Boes and Van Wormer, 1997, pg. 413). On an average night, an estimated 20% of sheltered single adults are homeless because of domestic violence, and 50% of sheltered families are victims of such violence (Boes and Van Wormer, 1997, pg. 416).
43% of the homeless are substance abusers, 26% are mentally ill, 23% are veterans, 19% are employed full or part-time and 8% have AIDS or related illnesses (Boes and Van Wormer, 1997, pg. 414).
Just because people find comfort in a shelter does not mean it is easy or safe. Homeless women are at a high risk for health problems in shelters as they are in close confinement with others and are therefore at great risk for spread of diseases such as colds, influenza, acute bronchitis, and tuberculosis (Boes and Van Wormer, 1997, pg. 418).
It is not uncommon for homeless youths, both males, and females, to resort to prostitution as a means of survival, which then makes them vulnerable to further violence as well as disease (Boes and Van Wormer, 1997, pg. 419).
Social workers working with impoverished populations need to be able to identify and reinforce strengths as well as focus on key ideals such as genuineness, encouragement, and personal empowerment in order to guide victims of homelessness and poverty to a path of healthy independence (Boes and Van Wormer, 1997, pg. 423).
Boes, M., & Wormer, K. (1997). Social Work with Homeless Women in Emergency Rooms: A Strengths-Feminist Perspective. Affilia, 12(4), 408-426.