In countries that do not have universal health care such as the United States homelessness is often linked to health. A serious injury or onset of a chronic or debilitating illness can easily exhaust one’s savings and make them lose their employment due to too much sick leave or due to an illness-induced erratic schedule at work, particularly in the construction and manufacturing industries or any other industry requiring intense manual labor. For most people loss of a job means loss of employer-sponsored health insurance. When a person loses their job and their health insurance they no longer have access to continued health care to help them heal and go back to work. It becomes a terrible downward spiral for them, usually ending in declaring bankruptcy or on Skid Row and loss of accommodation. Statistics indicate that about 67% of bankruptcies are due to medical debt. Homeless people are exposed to a host of pathogens and other health threatening conditions. They are confronted with violence, cold, undernourishment and many others. Most of them develop conditions such as high blood pressure, respiratory problems and asthma. They have no way of maintaining a healthy diet as they often depend on food from soup kitchens and shelters, which is usually high in fat and sugar. It is not uncommon for the homeless to develop such behavioral problems as depression and alcoholism and worse. They face a convergence of co-occurring physical, psychological as well as social problems. Sometimes they succumb to substance abuse. Homeless individuals are four times more likely to die prematurely than their counterparts who are housed. Homeless people are people who are in need and God has a predilection for such people. As a matter of fact Jesus gives a powerful lesson regarding how we should treat those in need in Matthew 25:35, 36. On judgment day there will be two groups of people: one group is referred to as goats, the other as sheep. The goats are the wicked and the sheep are representative of the righteous. The reason for the condemnation of the wicked is that they neglected to help the needy (Matthew 25: 41-43). Jesus was Himself homeless at some point during His adult life (Luke 9:58). Sometimes He ate at His friends’ homes (Luke 10:40).
Although some countries have government programs to take care of the poor, this does not absolve Christians from the responsibility of helping those who are in need. As children of God (John 1:12) we look to God as our example of how we should live and treat each other, and He says: “…Is it not to share your bread with the hungry, and bring the homeless poor into your house?” (Isaiah 58:7). The homeless offer us an opportunity to exercise charity and benevolence which are both good for our health. It is a win-win situation.