Healthcare and Homelessness

Understanding the Link Between Healthcare and Homelessness

Homelessness can be caused by chronic health issues, and homelessness can cause chronic health issues. Poor health can rapidly escalate into employment problems, financial difficulties and housing issues. Homeless people experience increased exposure to the elements, disease, violence, unsanitary conditions, malnutrition, stress, and addictive substances – all of which increases the chance of requiring healthcare.

this is an icon default
50 %

Over half of personal bankruptcies in the U.S. result from health issues.

this is an icon default
25 %

The number of homeless people who have access to federally funded health care projects designed to help homeless people, versus the 4 million people who need it.

this is an icon default
50 years

Average life-expectancy of someone experiencing homelessness, 20 or more years younger than the general population.

this is an icon default

The number of people experiencing homelessness who die each day.

Few people experiencing homelessness receive adequate medical care or treatment – for either routine care or illnesses and injuries.


The majority of homeless people do not have health insurance or the ability to pay for needed care. In extreme situations, many turn to emergency rooms despite being costly and inappropriate for ongoing care. Federally funded Health Care for the Homeless (HCH) projects provide primary care without regard to one’s ability to pay, but these health centers reach less than a million out of the three to four million homeless individuals annually who desperately need care. You can get involved by advocating for:

  • Medicaid Expansion – Medicaid provides the consistent health coverage needed to prevent and treat the health issues of individuals experiencing homelessness.
  • Reliable coverage through Medicaid will improve financial security, stabilize health, and help prevent and reduce homelessness.
  • The expansion of Medicaid will improve state budgets and lower health costs with savings on uncompensated care and reduced spending on hospitalization and criminal justice for individuals with severe behavioral health needs.

NCH works to promote the comprehensive and integrated treatment needs of homeless persons within the context of health reform. We support effective implementation of Medicaid expansion for people living in or near poverty.