It may seem the least of their worries, but not being able to get a decent night’s sleep is “without a doubt … the biggest issue for homeless people.”
That’s according to Kevin Barbieux, who calls himself a “chronically homeless” man who blogs as The Homeless Guy.
His post on the need for sleep appeared in June 2013, but was featured in August in an article on The Atlantic magazine’s Citylab website.
For the homeless, the enemies of sleep include:
- the elements;
- being awakened by the police or other homeless (and non-homeless) people who want to bum a cigarette, for example;
- having to remain vigilant to protect possessions and to avoid being attacked; and
- even staking out a patch of ground.
Shelters rarely provide a good night’s sleep, Barbieux added, noting that shelter occupants sometimes get into loud discussions or fights, and some of the mentally ill among them wrestle with hallucinations. The night is short with check-out time at most shelters before 6 a.m.
“Suffering from a lack of sleep, just how is a homeless person supposed to do all the things necessary for overcoming their homelessness?” — Kevin Barbieux, The Homeless Guy
“What looks like laziness to the casual bypasser is actually sleep deprivation,” Barbieux wrote. “Suffering from a lack of sleep, just how is a homeless person supposed to do all the things necessary for overcoming their homelessness?”
“They often lack a safe place to sleep, which can start a pattern of taking drugs—methamphetamine, for example—to stay awake at night and then using alcohol, marijuana or heroin to sleep,” she told Healing Hands, a publication of the clinician’s network of the U.S. National Health Care for the Homeless Council.
“We don’t talk enough about these concerns with our [homeless] patients.” — Dr. Eowyn Rieke, family physician, Portland, Oregon