Helping People With Diabetes Experiencing Homelessness

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 2023-11-28

A large number of people are unhoused in the US, with a total of 582,462 experiencing homelessness in 2022. With so many people without a place to live, it’s possible you know someone who is unhoused while living with type 2 diabetes (T2D)

The reason why someone living with T2D may be experiencing homelessness can vary, but they still deserve the resources and care needed for their diabetes management. If you want to help people with diabetes experiencing homelessness, you can start by sharing this collection of resources available.

People with diabetes need help

People with T2D who are unhoused are in need of help for many reasons. A 2019 report found that 59% of people are just one missed paycheck away from losing their homes. With the high cost of diabetes management, people with diabetes have to live with an extra financial burden.

On average, a person living with diabetes has 2.6 times higher medical expenses than someone without diabetes. For many, choosing between life-saving medication or their rent is a no brainer. Insulin rationing, or taking less insulin than what a person medically needs due to cost, has become more common.

Nutrition plays a big role in diabetes management, making access to enough food crucial for those living with it. People living with diabetes that are experiencing homelessness may not have access to food or to refrigeration for their medications.

Without access to the internet or a mobile phone, someone who is unhoused may not be aware of available resources—which is why it’s important that you share this information.

Food pantries

Food pantries are great places to turn to for food. They can be located at schools, community centers or in vehicles as mobile pantries.

One organization you could recommend is Feeding America, which is a network of food banks, food pantries and food programs. You can also find Anti-Hunger Organizations in your area that can assist.

People who are unhoused can also get emergency food assistance

Housing assistance programs

There are organizations that help people who are experiencing homelessness find shelter. 

The National Alliance to End Homelessness explains what to do if someone is in need of a place to stay. Many communities have 24/7 hotlines to help people find shelter, health care, food and other social programs. 

People with diabetes (PWD) have rights while staying in a shelter such as:

  1. Being protected against discrimination because of their disease.
  2. Not being turned away from a shelter due to their diabetes.
  3. Emergency shelters must provide accommodations to PWD. 
  4. Accommodations that shelters should provide to PWD include modification to policies like “no sharps,” “no pets,” or “no snacks and drinks.”
  5. Emergency shelters cannot deny entry to diabetes service animals.

Other programs that provide shelter, temporary or permanent housing include The Emergency Solutions Grants Program (ESG), Continuum of Care (CoC) Homeless Assistance Program and The Salvation Army

Services that don’t require an address

It’s beneficial for people who are unhoused to know which organizations do not require an address in exchange for services. 

Catholic Charities agencies provide different housing services, from short-term shelters to permanent housing. Local agencies might also be able to help people who are experiencing homelessness access nutritious food, health care services and more.

Another organization that does not require an address is Lutheran Social Services. Each state has a chapter, and people can receive housing assistance, mental health support, services for people with disabilities and more.

Take advantage of health fairs

Health fairs are often free and take place around the country. A quick Google search will display a variety of fairs taking place in different areas.

If someone who is experiencing homelessness does attend an event, especially if it is diabetes-focused, they should ask for samples of testing supplies or continuous glucose monitors (CGMs), as free trial programs require an address. 

Living with diabetes is challenging enough, and being unhoused makes it that much more difficult. Not having access to basic necessities like food, shelter and medication can lead to a life of complications for a person with diabetes—or even death. Sharing these resources with PWD who are experiencing homelessness could save their life!


Editor’s Note: Educational content about health equity and access is made possible with support from Abbott, makers of the Freestyle Libre 3 system, a founding partner of Beyond Type 2. Editorial control rests solely with Beyond Type 2.

WRITTEN BY Kourtney Johnson, POSTED 11/28/23, UPDATED 11/28/23

Kourtney is a registered dietitian living with type 1 diabetes. She was inspired to study nutrition after learning about the role food plays in managing this condition. When she’s not writing about all things food and diabetes-related, she enjoys reading, cooking, traveling, going to the beach and spending time with loved ones.





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