Education of health care providers about a person’s unique needs

A person experiencing homelessness has had a different experience than the average patient that health care providers see. This uniqueness can be frustrating to communicate to health care providers so that the person is respected and acknowledged appropriately. It is important to share knowledge about the lived experience of homelessness when advocating. Telling specific experiences to health care providers can help them understand the impact on care for a person such as:

  • lack of housing or unstable housing
  • mistrust of health care providers based on bad experiences
  • experience with trauma such as physical, sexual, psychological abuse, racism and colonization
  • the nature of social support networks, such as family, and how it may differ from the average patient
  • mental health and other co-morbidities
  • addiction and substance use

Here is a link to a resource that can be given to health care providers to help them better understand the impact of homelessness on receiving care:

Understanding the Context of a Person Experiencing Homelessness and How it Can Affect Their Care

People who are homeless have a different experience than the average patient that health care providers see. Please take the time to review the impact these experiences may have had for your patient.

If the person has no housing or unstable housing

  • He/she/they may not have a health card
  • It might be difficult to get a hold of him/her/them
  • They are not always in safe or trusting sleep conditions; it is not uncommon for personal belongings to be stolen by others, especially prescription drugs or other medications

Mistrust of health care providers

  • The person may have had previous negative encounters with health care providers and may be skeptical of receiving help from health care

Experience with trauma (physical, sexual, psychological abuse, racism and colonization)

  • The person is likely to have experienced trauma in his/her/their life that can have an impact in a variety of ways, including how he/she/they interact with authoritative figures or people in positions of power
  • Past trauma experience may bring out behavioural issues including violence, etc.
  • It is important to work with the person to keep him/her/themselves and those around safe

Nature of social support network and how it may differ from the average patient

  • The person may not have friends/family around to offer support
  • The person may suffer from loneliness

Mental health and other co-morbidities

  • The person may suffer from illnesses that are not yet diagnosed
  • The person may suffer from other illnesses that impact how they perceive pain/symptoms/wellbeing

Addictions and substance use

  • The person’s current or previous narcotic use may impact how he/she/they feels pain
  • The person’s use may alter how effective typical medications are
  • The person may be at risk of going into withdrawal if forced to abstain from alcohol or drugs