What Are the Dangers of Living on the Streets?
People end up living on the streets for a multitude of reasons. Most often economic hardships like job loss, losing a home to foreclosure and lack of public assistance lead to homelessness. Mental health ailments and drug addiction also play a part in a person's living on the street.
Whatever the reason a person finds himself on the street, many dangers await him there.
On the street, the idea of honour among thieves is outdated poetry. A person travels with his entire belongings, carrying his life in a rucksack or pushing it along in a shopping trolley. Most often ownership is seen as temporary since most items were found in the first place, and people turn on each other for objects with monetary or protective value. Sometimes a person will be stripped of all their possessions and left to die in the cold.
Winters can be very harsh when the shelters are full, and many of the homeless are left to fend for themselves. Often they will find temporary refuge in abandoned buildings or underneath bridges, but this will only briefly protect them. When temperatures drop below freezing, the lack of proper winter clothing combined with malnourishment can be deadly for the homeless. Often they will turn to alcohol and drugs to combat the cold and will not realise that they are dying of exposure.
Rape of both women and men is not uncommon when living on the street. Lack of order and supervision leaves many individuals helpless, and more powerful people take advantage of this helplessness. Sometimes individuals will be repeatedly raped and forced to perform sexual acts for money and drugs by others. Some individuals will exchange sexual favours for shelter or food. Since little counselling and help is available for the homeless that have been sexually abused, they are often further psychologically victimised by thinking that they have somehow deserved the abuse.
Little protection from the elements and malnourishment lead to a number of diseases. The homeless can suffer from third world ailments like scurvy and dysentery from lack of a healthy diet. Also, lack of proper medical help leads to severe cases usually easily treatable conditions, such as tetanus, frostbite and gangrene. Sexually transmitted diseases like HIV and hepatitis are spread through both sexual contact and sharing of hypodermic needles. Most time these conditions are both chronic and terminal due to lack of proper medical attention.