A study recently published in the Canadian Medical Association Journal examined the correlation between traumatic head injuries and homelessness. 601 men and 303 women were surveyed, among whom 53% had experienced such injuries: 70% of those prior to their becoming homeless. Their overall rate for such injuries is five times higher than that of the population as a whole.
While the study does not seek to establish a causal link, the data is certainly suggestive. While it might be relatively rare for a head injury to be the exclusive cause of becoming homeless, it is certainly plausible that those who already lacked a social safety net could find themselves homeless as the eventual consequence of one.
It’s just another acute demonstration of how acutely unfair life really is. Providing long-term aid to those who require it is an onerous burden, and one that is perhaps borne poorly by impersonal governmental structures. That being said, the study does provide support for the ethical claim that society as a whole owes moral duties to the homeless, who may be in their present circumstance far more as the consequence of ill-fortune than as a consequence of any choices that we might feel make them undeserving of substantial assistance.
I learned about the study from The McGill Daily – a campus newspaper I picked up when I was visiting my brother in Montreal. Their story is available here.