On February 2, the groundhog declared, “There is no shadow to be cast. An early spring is in my forecast!” This is good news for homeless people, who endure long, cold days trying to keep warm, crouched in the corner of parking garages, curled up on floors of abandoned houses, or huddled together in makeshift tents. But for more than half of homeless men, they have even more to contend with than weather – traumatic brain injuries. With 600,000 homeless Americans shivering on the streets on any given night, this issue commands attention.
Studies have shown that most of the men surveyed sustained traumatic brain injuries prior to being homeless, many occurring during their early teenage years. The most common cause of traumatic brain injuries was attributed to assaults. A large percentage of homeless people studied grew up in chaotic households and experienced chronic childhood abuse, contributing to poor school performance, substance abuse, violent behavior, and arrests – as many as half of New York City teenagers who have been arrested have sustained traumatic brain injuries in the past.
What’s more disturbing is that many individuals reported that the harm they suffered as children, including the neurological outcomes, went untreated because their abusers attempted to shield their injuries from others. The statistics, however, do reveal the magnitude of the impact trauma has on the lives of individuals who have sustained such injuries.
The upside of all this research is the new knowledge we have gained, the knowledge that helps us assist the 600,000 homeless surviving on the streets – the confused, scared, lonely and lost individuals who are as human as the rest of us.