Essay Sample on Homelessness and Stress

Paper Type:  Essay
Pages:  5
Wordcount:  1271 Words
Date:  2022-12-13


Homelessness has become an increasingly social problem in the United States and elsewhere across the globe. The number of homeless people is on the rise perhaps due to structural failures such as inadequate housing or poverty. Homelessness is highly linked to extreme poverty but it has not always been the case. Homelessness is defined as living in temporary housing or shelters an aspect that is extremely stressful. The homeless people face a lot of stressors that translate to the lack of food, shelter, security, rough exposure to inclement weather as well as frustration for the lack of securing work and housing opportunities (Greenberg). Besides that, other factors such the loss of dignity, discrimination, stigma and the social services bureaucracies account to stressors that negatively impact the mental wellbeing of the homeless. Similarly, the exposure to communicable diseases, violence and crime result stresses the homeless population. Therefore, stress is a major problem that affects the homeless is has become a public health problem.

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The homeless people living in communal facilities renowned as shelters face the problem of overcrowding. The close proximity by which they live and sleep with strangers with various social problems and the nature of rules in the shelter takes away their autonomy leading to stress. Moreover, living in communal facilities is chaotic because individuals with various challenges and medical diagnosis come and go on a daily basis. Therefore, the homeless are at high risk of developing communicable diseases. Coping with diseases and illnesses can be highly toxic to the mind. The homeless population lack health insurance or friends and relatives to take care of their medical needs. As such, getting medical assistance is extremely difficult and highly stressful. Apart from that, the homeless in shelters experience incidents of arguments, theft, and fighting. Therefore, living in shelters does not guarantee a better life. In fact, the volatility of shelters contributes to stress to the homeless people who reside there (Greenberg).

The homeless people living in communal facilities experience exacerbated chronic stress and strain as opposed to an average person. Besides, those who reside on the streets experience high-stress levels due to traumatic life experiences. They face the challenge of extreme weather at night, physical abuse and harassment by the police and other members of the society. The stigma surrounding homelessness makes life harder for these people. The general public views the homeless as dangerous. However, studies indicate that the homeless population is far more likely to be victims of crime. On the other hand, being homeless implies that these people are uncertain about their next meal. Likewise, the perpetual exposure to traumatic experiences implies that the homeless live in a state of fight or flight. Unfortunately, not all people recover quickly, stress takes a toll on them and ultimately they find it difficult to navigate the barriers to overcoming homelessness (Boss, Bryant, and Mancini).

Homelessness is a condition that is associated with the loss of self-esteem and dignity, a situation that is very stressful. Some people find their selves homeless, a situation they never thought they would experience. Some people work but the income they receive is inadequate to cater for all their basic needs. As such, since housing consumes much of their income, they find it easy to forego shelter and live on the streets trying to make ends meet (Boss, Bryant, and Mancini). Perhaps, at one point in their lifetime, they looked down upon the homeless as people who failed. Therefore, finding themselves in the streets eats away their sense of pride and self-love that accumulates into stress which can further translate into depression. The feeling of failure and social inadequacy makes them feel like failures and lack the courage to even contact family members and friends for assistance. The frustrations build up and they find themselves lost in the life of the streets a factor that leads to mental health problems.

Prolonged and immense stress leads to physiological and psychological impacts, particularly among the homeless population. The homeless experience a high rate of mental diseases as compared to ordinary people in society (Lippert & Barret 344). Extreme and prolonged stress leads to mental disorders such as bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, depression, and increased episodes of acute delusion. The environmental condition of being homeless for instance plays a causal role in the aggravated mental conditions. The stigma surrounding mental illness is extremely discriminative because the homeless are often seen as crazy or mad. Through proper medical treatment, these people can recover and find job placements. However, the mentally ill experience the challenge of finding a job because they are viewed as delusional and ones who could be unproductive. Such employment discriminations exacerbate stress and mental illness. Similarly, on a physiological note, stress makes the body respond by increasing the release of the hormone cortisol. The prolonged increase in cortisol leads to obesity and a compromised immune system (Greenberg). Therefore, the homeless are more susceptible to infectious diseases a situation worsened by the crowded communal living. Likewise, the homeless have a high post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) incidence. PTSD is an acute outcome related to the stressful nature of being homeless. Post-traumatic stress disorder disrupts a person's capacity for social functioning leading to isolation. Since the homeless are exposed to the risks violence, crime, acute psychological and physical threats that promote PTSD, they become dysfunctional, a condition that affects their re-entry into society (Greenberg).

Coping with stress is a daunting challenge for the homeless. As a result, some of the homeless people cope with stress by engaging in substance abuse and alcohol. The frustrations of being homeless and the stress associated with the rough living conditions makes them vulnerable to alcohol and drug abuse. Such activities create a virtual world by which these people escape the harsh realities associated with homelessness. Unfortunately, addiction to alcohol worsens the situation because it makes it harder to regain their lives back (Lippert & Barret 345).


In conclusion, homelessness and stress are inextricably linked. Being homeless exposes individuals to rough living conditions that promote stress. The vulnerabilities of living in the streets are stressors due to uncertainties regarding the next meal, security, overcrowding, violence, crime, and lack of medical assistance. These factors lead to the loss of dignity and self-esteem because of the public perception of the homeless as dangerous people. Furthermore, the discriminatory employment practices that burr the homeless from securing work and housing promotes stress and frustrations. Prolonged exposure to stressful encounters leads to depression, PTSD and other mental health challenges. The government and social workers should strive to solve the problem of homelessness. When I see the homeless in the streets I feel sad, compassion and empathy for them due to the vulnerable conditions they are exposed to. These people require assistance and support systems to get their lives together and fight the feelings of isolation. Structural and social failures have led these people to experience homelessness that promotes stress and mental illnesses. This course has taught me that we should not be judgmental whenever we see the homeless in the streets. Personally, whenever I look at the homeless, I see their formative experiences, struggles, and the need for reintegration into society. I, therefore, feel that the government should invest more in affordable housing programs to solve homelessness as well as provide mental health assistance for the homeless population.

Works Cited

Boss, P., Bryant, C.M., & Mancini, J.A. Family Stress Management: A Contextual Approach. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage, 2017.

Greenberg, Jerrold S. Comprehensive Stress Management. McGraw-Hill Education, 2017.

Lippert, Adam M., and Barrett A. Lee. "Stress, Coping, and Mental Health Differences among Homeless People." Sociological Inquiry, vol. 85, no. 3, 2015, pp. 343-374., doi:10.1111/soin.12080.

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