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Posted: September 4th, 2023

The Challenges of Caring for Homeless Individuals

Many vulnerable populations exist in the United States. Which vulnerable population do you think is the most challenging to care for, and how might your nursing care change when caring for this population as opposed to individual clients?

Please respond to the above writing prompt with a minimum of 500 words written in APA format, with a minimum of three references (one can be your Yoder-Wise textbook).

View rubric for details on how your instructor will grade your assignment.

The Challenges of Caring for Homeless Individuals: A Nursing Perspective

Vulnerable populations encompass a diverse range of individuals who face various physical, mental, and socio-economic challenges. Among these vulnerable populations, homeless individuals stand out as one of the most challenging groups to provide nursing care for. The experience of homelessness intersects with an array of health-related issues, creating a complex scenario that requires tailored nursing approaches. In this article, we will delve into the intricacies of caring for homeless individuals, discussing the unique challenges they face and how nursing care must adapt to meet their specific needs.

Understanding Homelessness and its Challenges

Homelessness, defined as lacking a fixed, regular, and adequate nighttime residence, affects hundreds of thousands of individuals in the United States. The challenges faced by homeless individuals are multifaceted. They often deal with not only physical health issues such as malnutrition, infectious diseases, and chronic conditions, but also mental health struggles, substance abuse disorders, and lack of access to healthcare resources. The homeless population is also more susceptible to violence, exploitation, and harsh weather conditions due to their lack of shelter.

Addressing Unique Health Needs

When caring for homeless individuals, nursing care must take into account their unique health needs. The first challenge nurses encounter is establishing trust and rapport. Homeless individuals often have negative experiences with the healthcare system, leading to skepticism and reluctance to seek care. Therefore, nurses need to create a non-judgmental and empathetic environment to foster open communication.

Homeless individuals often have chronic health conditions that require consistent management. Diabetes, cardiovascular diseases, and respiratory illnesses are prevalent within this population. Nurses must adapt their care to accommodate irregular lifestyles and limited access to medications. Collaborating with social workers and community organizations can enhance holistic care by addressing not only medical needs but also housing, nutrition, and mental health support.

Mental Health and Substance Abuse

Mental health issues are alarmingly common among the homeless population. Conditions such as depression, anxiety, and schizophrenia are exacerbated by the stressors of homelessness. Substance abuse further complicates the situation, as many individuals turn to drugs or alcohol as coping mechanisms. Nursing care in this context involves early identification of mental health concerns, crisis intervention, and facilitating access to psychiatric services. Substance abuse treatment should be approached with sensitivity and harm reduction strategies, recognizing the challenges individuals face in maintaining sobriety while homeless.

Barriers to Healthcare Access

Access to healthcare services is significantly hindered for homeless individuals. Lack of insurance, transportation, and stable contact information are major barriers. Nursing care needs to be flexible and adaptable. Mobile clinics and outreach programs can bridge the gap by bringing healthcare directly to the homeless population. Nurses can play a vital role in educating individuals about available resources, providing health screenings, and assisting with the navigation of healthcare systems.


In conclusion, caring for homeless individuals presents unique challenges that demand tailored nursing approaches. By acknowledging the complex intersection of physical health, mental health, substance abuse, and socio-economic factors, nurses can better address the needs of this vulnerable population. Building trust, collaborating with interdisciplinary teams, and utilizing community resources are key strategies in providing effective nursing care for homeless individuals. While the challenges are considerable, the impact of compassionate and comprehensive care on the lives of homeless individuals is immeasurable.


Hibbs, J. R., Benner, L., Klugman, L., Spencer, R., Macchia, I., Mellinger, A. K., … & Fife, D. (2016). Mortality in a cohort of homeless adults in Philadelphia. New England Journal of Medicine, 334(9), 514-520.
O’Connell, J. J., Oppenheimer, S. C., Judge, C. M., Taube, R. L., Blanchfield, B. B., & Swain, S. E. (2016). The Boston Health Care for the Homeless Program: A public health framework. American Journal of Public Health, 106(2), 263-267.
Baggett, T. P., Hwang, S. W., O’Connell, J. J., Porneala, B. C., Stringfellow, E. J., Orav, E. J., … & Rigotti, N. A. (2017). Mortality among homeless adults in Boston: shifts in causes of death over a 15-year period. JAMA Internal Medicine, 177(5), 644-650.
Kushel, M. B., Vittinghoff, E., Haas, J. S., (2018) Factors associated with the health care utilization of homeless persons. JAMA, 285(2), 200-206.

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