At this moment, there are 1,501,680 people in Georgia experiencing food insecurity and there are 9,499 people experiencing homelessness in Georgia (About Hunger and Homelessness). Food insecurity means that a person does not have access “to an adequate supply of nutritious, affordable food” (About Hunger and Homelessness). Homelessness means that a person does not have a home of their own. When thinking of people who are experiencing homelessness, some often think of people staying outside or in shelters, but people can also be considered homeless, if they are “couch surfing” or staying in a hotel/motel. Food, water, and shelter are our most basic necessities that make a huge impact on our overall wellbeing. They impact us physically and mentally. Food insecurity and homelessness are correlated with poor health and mental illness. In fact, 20% of the homeless population in America report having a mental illness, with 16% reporting “substance abuse, HIV/AIDS, diabetes, or heart disease” (About Hunger and Homelessness).
People experiencing food insecurity or homelessness make difficult decisions everyday regarding basic needs. The stress of these daily decisions can negatively impact mental health by increasing symptoms of anxiety and depression. Food insecurity and homelessness can also present as barriers to accessing adequate medical and mental health care. For example, choosing to pay rent or utilities over purchasing medical care or groceries. A lack of adequate nutrition and healthy coping can lead to maladaptive coping and survival mechanisms. Some people may begin to self-medicate with substances to cope with untreated mental or physical health issues or just daily stress. Some people may also turn to risky behaviors to try to meet their needs. This can become a cycle that leads to barriers of other basic needs, such as transportation, occupation, and socialization.
A person can experience food insecurity or homelessness for many reasons, but there is a way to help overcome and that is together. If you or someone you know is experiencing food insecurity or homelessness, help is available. We can offer case management and support services to aid with accessing community resources and affordable housing, financial literacy, skills for employment, and healthy coping skills, as well as psychiatric and counseling services for people experiencing substance use or mental illness.
Children also experience food insecurity and homelessness and their related stress. They may have an increase in physical illness, behavior problems, and difficulty in school, as well as experiencing symptoms of anxiety and depression. Georgia HOPE can support children experiencing these difficulties by providing skills building to increase communication and social skills or coping skills, therapy to aid the child in understanding their emotions and how to regulate themselves, and psychiatric care to address further needs regarding mental health care. We can also support the child and caregiver by advocating and providing educational support by partnering with their school, if needed.
Together we can aid in overcoming these barriers to increase overall wellbeing and quality of life.
About Hunger and Homelessness: Move for Hunger. (n.d.).