Introduction - Background to the Issue.
Homelessness is an issue that prevails across most developed countries. In Canada, rates of homelessness are on the rise, and it is not limited to one specific group of people (Currie, Greaves, Golden, & Latimer, 1999, p. 17). Homelessness has many faces: male and female, young and old, lifelong citizens of Canada and immigrants and refugees. There is a clear connection between homelessness and poor health. To understand the health of a population, one needs not only to take into consideration biological or genetic predispositions that make up the group. It is important to consider the many facets of life experience " social experience, economic/income experience " these too have a great impact on the health outcomes of groups and individuals. Of all determinants of health, it is said that income and resulting socio-economic status has had the greatest impact. The evidence is clear when looking at mortality and illness rates by income level: those in the lowest income brackets have the highest rates of illness and disease, resulting in the lowest life expectancy. Falling into this category is the homeless population of Canada.
The living conditions experienced by this group of marginalized people are severe and unsafe. Exposure to extreme weather conditions, unhygienic living areas, and danger of assault are just a few of the day-to-day trials and tribulations undergone by the average homeless person. Often as a result of their living conditions, their experiences of health are much worse than that of the general population. According to the Homelessness Action Plan for Toronto (1999), homeless people are at much higher risk for infectious disease, premature death, acute illness, and chronic health problems. They are also at higher risk for suicide, mental health problems, and drug or alcohol addiction. Their situation is exacerbated by poor nutrition, poor hygiene, and a higher likelihood of experiencing violence or trauma on the street or in a shelter (p.