Las Vegas is no stranger to the problem of homelessness. Studies have found that Las Vegas has a homeless population of nearly 6,500. While this is a tragedy under normal circumstances, during times of pandemic it can turn into a disaster. The coronavirus pandemic has heightened the risk for homeless populations, putting them at great risk for contracting the deadly COVID-19 disease.
Homeless Populations and Vulnerability
Homeless populations, regardless of their location, are susceptible to infectious diseases. The reasons for this are many, but chief among them is the lack of shelter. Not having a home to live in means that homeless individuals often need to reside either on the streets or in shelters. Those who live on the streets are exposed to the elements, and as a result tend to come into contact with more types of illness. Meanwhile, homeless shelters are often overcrowded, making it extremely easy for diseases, such as coronavirus, to spread.
Yet, there are many other reasons as to why homeless individuals are more susceptible to infectious disease. One is drug use. While it’s important to understand that the stereotype of all homeless people using drugs is mostly fiction, there are homeless individuals that do abuse substance. Abusing substances can weaken the immune system, encourage reckless behavior, and may lead individuals to ignore social distancing guidelines. During the coronavirus pandemic, experts have warned that drugs users, particularly those that use drugs that affect the lungs, are at greater risk for contracting COVID-19.
Worse still, many homeless people do not have access to medical care. Since insurance is frequently tied to one’s employment, unemployed homeless people often have nowhere to go during times of sickness. This, coupled with all the aforementioned risk factors, can create a deadly storm.
Removing Risk Factors
Luckily, there are ways to minimize the risks of infectious disease to homeless populations. One of the major ways would be to expand access to housing and healthcare. When people are given shelter and healthcare, disease becomes more manageable.
Of course, combatting addiction amongst homeless populations is another way to reduce the spread of infectious disease. Not only does substance weaken the body’s immune system, but users may ignore social distancing guidelines when abusing substance. Hence, the link between addiction, homelessness, and disease becomes clear.
Desert Hope is one of many Las Vegas treatment centers ready to combat addiction, even in the midst of a pandemic. Our medically informed treatment program can treat not just addiction, but co-occurring mental health disorders as well. If you’re homeless, know that you don’t need to live under constant threat from disease or addiction. Real, believable hope is just a phone call away.