Family Homelessness Viewed Through the Lens of Health and Human Rights

by Nursetopia on May 11, 2012

Article: Lee, R. (2012). Family homelessness viewed through the lens of health and human rights. Advances in Nursing Science, 35(2): E47-E59.

The Big Idea: This ethnographic study focuses on the viewpoints of health, human rights, and dignity as perceived by 12 Appalachian mothers, raising children in an urban family homeless shelter.

Survey Says!: Three themes emerged through this study: “enduring threatening lifeways before coming to the shelter…struggling to earn the respect of self and others…[and] remaining emotionally and spiritually strong while facing challenges of shelter living and an uncertain future” (p. E55-E56).

Quotable: “More than 600 000 American families, including some 1.5 million children, will experience homelessness in any given year [reference]. During the period from 2007 to 2009, there was a 30% increase in the numbers of families who were homeless [reference]. These numbers do not include the additional families precariously housed and living in doubled-up situations or in substandard housing.” (p. E47).

“According to the National Low Income Housing Coalition’s 2011 figures, the average minimum wage worker in most states would have to work 102 hours each week to be able to afford a 2-bedroom apartment at the fair market housing rate [reference]. The fact that many individuals and families experiencing homelessness actually do work was confirmed by the US Conference of Mayors [reference], who found that between 15% and 25% of the urban homeless population are in fact employed (p. E48).

“Article 25 of this declaration [Universal Declaration of Human Rights, 1948] speaks to human rights at their most basic level: ‘Everyone has the right to a standard of living adequate for the health and well-being of himself and of his family, including food, clothing, housing and medical care and necessary social services, and the right to security in the event of unemployment, sickness, disability, widowhood, old age or other lack of livelihood in circumstances beyond his control’ (Article 25, 1)” (p. E50).

So What?: This article has a wealth of information within it. I found myself wanting to quote the entire article. It discusses the health impact homelessness has on women and children. Homelessness is an extremely stressful situation for mothers and their children. Everyone deserves the right to dignity in health care; nurses can play a major role in culturally competent and empathetic care.

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