Many of the health issues faced by homeless youth are similar to those faced by anyone experiencing homelessness. However, as adolescents, homeless youth are still developing psychologically, cognitively and physically and may make choices that are not in the best interest of their health. Before becoming homeless, these youth may have also endured a chaotic and often violent home life and they may be distrustful of authority and adults. For these reasons, Covenant House provides homeless youth with healthcare services that are specific to their unique and dire needs.
Lack of Healthcare for Homeless Kids
A life on the streets is hard on even the strongest body, and kids who are homeless are exposed to the elements, have poor nutrition, and are in often dangerous situations that can cause serious injury. Without proper healthcare, these can turn into life-threatening complications.
And this is compounded by the fact that most homeless kids have no health insurance and don't have the resources to seek care when they become sick or injured.
The rates of both chronic and acute health problems are extremely high among the homeless population. Conditions that require regular, uninterrupted treatment, such as tuberculosis, HIV/AIDS, diabetes, hypertension, addictive disorders, and mental disorders, are extremely difficult to treat or control among those without adequate housing.
Many homeless teens have multiple health problems. For example, frostbite, leg ulcers, and upper respiratory infections are frequent, often the direct result of homelessness. Homeless teens are also at greater risk of trauma resulting from muggings, beatings, and rape.
Homelessness precludes good nutrition, good personal hygiene, and basic first aid, adding to the complex health needs of homeless teens. In addition, some homeless kids with mental disorders may use drugs or alcohol to self-medicate, and those with addictive disorders are also often at risk of HIV/AIDS and other communicable diseases.
These serious health issues are one of the greatest challenges we face at Covenant House, and that is why we offer free primary healthcare to homeless, runaway, and at-risk kids as soon as they walk through our doors.