Several weeks ago, I was walking in the downtown area and heard some music that made me stop in my tracks. As a musician myself, I find it refreshing when I stumble upon someone who plays in a way that demonstrates the depths of their passion and emotions. It’s not something that’s often found on the radio these days.
I followed the sounds, until I found the source. It was a homeless man playing a guitar. He was playing the blues, but not in the formulaic manner that it is played so often. His music touched me so much, that I had to sit down and get to know him.
I offered to take him out to lunch in an effort to learn more about him. He told me that his favorite restaurant is Chili’s, because his father would take him there when he was younger. Off we went.
His name is Henry, and he’s been homeless for 3 years. An unfortunate series of events caused him to lose his job and eventually his home.
Throughout the lunch, he kept commenting on how long it had been since he’d eaten such a good meal. That got me thinking about how difficult it must be for homeless individuals to obtain proper nutrition (I’m sure this lunch wasn’t much help, either).
When I got home, I did some research. The findings, while not surprising, were still very disheartening.
Hunger and Homelessness
As you might expect, many of the homeless are deficient in several key vitamins and nutrients. Their lack of a consistent and diverse source of food leads to several problems. Soup kitchens, while noble in their efforts to provide food, do not provide all the adequate nutrients.
One of the biggest nutrient deficiencies that homeless individuals run into is with B vitamins. It’s difficult to obtain the kinds of foods that provide this nutrient, including meat, poultry, fish and dairy.
Unfortunately, a lack of vitamin B12 has serious consequences. Vitamin B12 helps to provide adequate energy, regulate sleep patterns, and even improve mood. These are all characteristics that are particularly important to the homeless, but unfortunately their diet has a negative impact in these areas.
Of course, there are several other nutrients they are lacking. Finding adequate protein and fiber can be difficult. They also have trouble getting enough magnesium, iron, calcium and zinc. A deficiency in any one of these nutrients can pose problems, but the combination of all of them is quite worrisome.
And thinking these individuals could possibly have access to vitamin supplements is laughable. I’m sure they have a hard time getting proper medications when they need them. What are the odds of someone providing vitamin B12 injections or any other vitamin injections to people who don’t have food?!
And vitamin B12 shots are just the tip of the iceberg. What about all the other nutrients they are missing out on?
I hope that someday, we can find a way to provide proper nutrition through sources like soup kitchens. People like my new friend Henry deserve to a well-balanced diet, at the very least. After hearing the music he provides to us, I think we owe it to him.