STUDENT VOICES: Learning on the streets: Experiencing homelessness
Christopher Wheatley MS, BSN, BA, RN

December 2012 
Volume 42  Number 12
Pages 16 - 17
  PDF Version Available!

HOMELESSNESS is a growing problem nationwide. A 2009 survey conducted by the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) estimated that every night, 110,917 American adults experienced chronic homelessness; about 75% of the population were men with an average age of 50.1 Nearly 242,000 persons in families experienced homelessness and almost 1 million children were identified as homeless in the 2009-2010 school year.2The University of Tennessee at Chattanooga (UTC) is located near downtown Chattanooga, where many homeless people live. The College of Nursing's senior class participates in a community-based project every semester as a component of the community health class. The focus of the project for the class graduating in December 2010 was helping the homeless in Chattanooga. This article describes my experiences during this eye-opening project.In Chattanooga, the HUD point-in-time survey (conducted January 25, 2009) showed that more than 4,094 people experience homelessness annually, and one-third of these are children with an average age of 5 years.3Here in Chattanooga, ending homelessness has been a personal crusade of the mayor as well as the professor who teaches community health at UTC. The latter has been involved with homeless people for many years and arranges for her students to participate at the Chattanooga Community Kitchen, where they provide foot care for the homeless, away from the actual kitchen. A few years ago, our professor met the podiatrist who volunteers at the foot clinic once a week. The podiatrist mentioned that he needed volunteers and our professor thought that bringing in nursing students was a natural match.One day our professor announced that we'd be divided into five groups, four of which would be sent out onto the streets of Chattanooga as simulated homeless people in various situations. This project was created to raise awareness among students about the plight of underserved populations-populations that we as future nurses

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