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"I LIVE WITH SLEEP DEPRIVATION every day; it makes me moody, angry, and unable to concentrate. It's a miserable way to live!" said Mr. H, 35 and single, sitting across from me in a local shelter. Homeless for 18 months, he was wearing ragged pants and a hooded sweatshirt, which he'd picked up at the Salvation Army. Although his clothes looked clean, his strong body odor permeated the air. Speaking in a soft monotone and avoiding eye contact, he clenched his fists and continued, "We're all different. I hate when people stereotype us as lazy, crazy, evil, or stupid. I have 3 years of college."

Nurses working in any public, private, or veterans' hospital are responsible for providing homeless persons realistic plans for follow-up and appropriate referrals to community agencies on discharge. Nurses working in jails and prisons should develop discharge plans that include referrals for housing and healthcare before inmate release. The Joint Commission mandates all patients receive safe discharge from healthcare facilities.

This article explores the health problems of homeless people like Mr. H, how these health problems can impact other people, and how nurses can best care for these vulnerable patients.
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A program of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Substance Abuse & Mental Health Services Administration, Center for Mental Health Services