Whatever the causes of an individual’s homelessness, the consequences can be brutal. It does not only destroy people’s capability through loss of skills, but damages resilience, self-esteem and worse of all, the health and wellbeing of whoever is affected. Being homeless has been found to shorten the life of a person by 30 years. RALIAT AHMED writes
Homelessness is notjust about not having a roof over one’s head. It is also not just a physical space because it has a legal and social dimension. A home provides identity, a sense of belonging and a place of emotional wellbeing.
Homelessness is when all these mentioned are lost. It is an isolating and destructive experience and homeless people are some of the most vulnerable and socially excluded in our society.
Homeless people can expect to die 30 years before the average person, research has found. A new study has revealed that homeless men are dying at an average of 47 years and homeless women at 43, in stark contrast to the average age of death for the general population, 77 years.
The research, carried out by Sheffield University, found that drug and alcohol abuse accounts for just over a third of all deaths among homeless people.
The head of the research team, Dr Bethan Thomas estimates the average age of death not only applies to just for rough sleepers, but for the wider homeless population including those who reside in night shelters, homeless hostels and so on.
He said: ‘’The size of the gap in average age of death between homeless people and the general population is shocking but it is appalling that in 21st century people are dying in early middle age because they do not have a home”.
Apart from these, suicide is also said to be nine times more likely among those affected. Also, it found that deaths as a result of traffic accidents are three times as likely, infections twice as likely and falls are more than three times as likely to result in death.
The links between drug and alcohol abuse and homelessness are well established and drugs and alcohol are known to be both a cause and consequence of living on the streets, it said.
Previous research has found that four out of five people start using at least one new drug after becoming homeless.
According to a physician, Dr Sheriff Olusola, it is not surprising that homeless people are dying much younger than the general population because being homeless can have a devastating health consequence on whoever is affected.
According to him, life on the streets is harsh and the stress of being homeless can affect the health and wellbeing of people.
“When you have a roof over your head you are sheltered from a lot of things like rain, sun and what have you. Again, you are able to think straight and provide other life essentials. When you don’t have shelter, your mind is not at rest and you cannot live a normal life. This can in turn affect the quality of life and therefore lead to earlier death than those who have homes,” he notes.
A Lagos –based public affairs analyst, Mr.Oluyemi Ayorinde, says homelessness is a major problem across the world’s major cities and Nigeria is not an exception. It has continued to be a largely urban phenomenon in which 71% are in central cities,21% in suburbs and 9% are in rural areas, he said.
He explains: “In the developed countries, they have a way of going about it by providing affordable shelter for those who need it i.e low income earners but in a country like Nigeria, successive governments have tried to do likewise but it has always being a failure as the houses end up being bought by politicians and top civil servants”.
It is the same across board except during the Jakande administration in Lagos in the 80s when houses were truly bought at affordable prices and by those who truly needed them,he said.
The analyst also notes that homelessness is a major problem in major cities for instance in Abuja where most of the houses built by government are owned in multiples by politicians and top government officials while those who need them end not getting and up being homeless.
“There are scores of empty houses in Abuja but completely unaffordable for most people. Even with private developers it’s no better. The high rent in Abuja which is legendary is a major contributory factor and a major fall out of the foregoing”.
Except there is transparency in the allocation system, this would continue to be a problem and people will continue to be homeless .Apart from the social implication of this problem, there are also health implications to it because shelter is very important in any society and a lack of it can shorten one’s life span, he said.
There are also other problems that can contribute towards homelessness. These structural causes include high levels of poverty, unemployment or joblessness or the way the houses are allocated,’’ he pointed out.