The Medical Treatment of Homeless People

The Medical Treatment of Homeless People



The homeless are often in poor health, and their risk of premature death is three to four times that of the general population. This article is intended to provide an overview of the medical care of the homeless in Germany.


We selectively reviewed pertinent scientific and non-scientific publications from the years 2000-2017 that were retrieved from PubMed, from the reports of the German Homeless Aid Society (Bundesarbeitsgemeinschaft Wohnungslosenhilfe), from the websites of homeless aid organizations, and from Google Scholar.


At least 75% of the homeless currently suffer from a mental illness requiring treatment. Common somatic problems include respiratory (6-14%) and cardiovascular disorders (7-20%), injuries and intoxications (5-15%), and infectious and parasitic diseases (10-16%). To circumvent the multiple barriers impeding homeless people's access to standard medical care (lack of health insurance, a feeling of being unwelcome, lack of disease awareness, impaired capacity for compliance), medical help is offered to them outside the system in a number of ways, embedded in an overall scheme of social and practical assistance with daily living. These medical resources differ from region to region. They are often underfinanced and tend to focus on acute general medical care, with limited access to specialists.


More heath care resources need to be made available to the homeless beyond standard medical care. Concrete suggestions 

JOURNAL: Deutsches Ärzteblatt international