Society problems

Alone, Harassed and Abandoned in Society: The Lived Experiences of Iranian Homeless Youth | BMC Psychology

Alone, harassed and abandoned in society

According to the experiences of homeless young adults, they escaped from the community due to SA and addiction, feeling like a burden on others and social isolation, and not only were they left without support in society, but they also suffered from all kinds of physical and psychological harassment. The main category extracted from their experiences was “lonely, bored and abandoned in society”. The main category is made up of three subcategories: avoidance of/by society, overall harassment, and overall lack of support.

Avoidance of/by society

This category includes feeling like a burden to others and social isolation. Most of the homeless suffered from societal avoidance due to poor appearance, poor health, AS and addiction, unemployment, and strains with family and friends. Sometimes they blame themselves or others for the unhealthy conditions in their lives. Feeling like a burden on the family and the community, they always try to live alone and away from the neighborhood. These people leave their homes due to easy access to narcotics and stay away from any pressure and discomfort. One woman described her experience of feeling like a burden to others as follows:My sister’s husband kept yelling at my sister and complaining about my presence at his house, so I left the house.(participant #3).

All homeless people rejected by their family have this feeling, and they sometimes ignore their family for years, and no one pays attention to them. These people are also isolated due to a loss of self-confidence and social trust. Participant #4 described his life as follows: “I have nothing to do with anyone and I am alone.

Another man, homeless for three years, recounted his experience as follows:I was rejected because of addiction, I have a family, but I’m ashamed of my behavior and my family wouldn’t like to see me.

Complete harassment

This category includes social harassment, physical violence, sexual harassment, psychological harassment and financial harassment.

Social harassment

One of the problems of the homeless was their untidy appearance and poor health. Moreover, other people always disrespect them and neglect them because they have to behave immorally to earn a living. They are still stigmatized and discriminated against by society.

“The staff working in this center sometimes have disrespectful behavior, which makes us upset and anxious.” (Participant #4).

“We are addicted, so if someone lost something, we would be blamed for them and no one would believe us.” (The second group discussion).

Physical violence

Homeless people have always been victims of various forms of harassment and problems due to the lack of permanent shelter, lack of money and living on the streets. These problems include a victim of street fights, car accidents and various illnesses. Moreover, these people cannot sustain these injuries due to lack of proper nutrition, severe addiction to multiple substances, and poor physical condition.

“A group of people drink alcohol at night and annoy the unfortunate drug addicts, and the police don’t pay attention to us.” (Participant #9).

Sexual harassment

Sexual harassment was common among women, which caused fear and insecurity among them. This group of people, especially women, are the most defenseless and have realized many problems. One participant, who was sexually abused, described her experiences as follows:

“When we sleep in the parks, the drunken boys annoy us, and we can’t do anything, we are threatened with being stabbed by them, so we have to let them do what they want and rape us.” (Participant #12).

Psychological harassment

Homeless people have experienced difficulties and problems such as family rejection, vagrancy and all kinds of street harassment throughout their lives. These factors made them very vulnerable psychologically, and the existing anxiety and stress deprived them of peace of mind.

“At night, a group harasses us miserable drug addicts.” (Participant #9).

Financial harassment

Lack of financial security and loss of all assets are problems faced by homeless people living on the streets. Their friends or people like them often take their belongings.

“We are not safe sleeping in the park at night. When we wake up in the morning, we will see that our friends have seized all of our belongings. (Participant #12).

Lack of full support

This category contains four subcategories: lack of family support, lack of support to meet basic needs, lack of access to health facilities and medical support, and insufficient charitable support.

Lack of family support

Homeless people do not want to return home due to a lack of emotional family support and family issues. Most homeless people preferred to live on the streets because of the absence of daily worries, loneliness, and family arguments and conflicts.

One woman described her experience as follows:

“When my parents died, my uncle chased me out of the parental home; my brothers and sisters are married and have nothing to do with me. (Participant #12).

“I had to leave my house because no one was paying attention to me.” (Participant #2).

Lack of support to meet basic needs

Adequate housing, employment and adequate access to food are among the basic needs of these people. The majority of participants are homeless and live on the streets. Annoying noises such as the noise of vehicles and night fights also annoy them. They have more difficulty finding a place to sleep, especially in the cold season, so they are more willing to use homeless shelters. They also believe that sleeping in the parks has made the city unattractive. A man participating in the first focus group discussion described his experience as follows:

“The homeless shelters were closed, and we don’t know what to do during the rains, now we need a place to sleep, they gave us a bed, we do drugs there and take a shower. Some of these homeless shelters were closed or moved due to complaints from neighbors, which made it difficult for us to access.

The majority of participants also saw unemployment as the main cause of their addiction and homelessness, and many wanted to find suitable employment. These people cannot find suitable jobs due to their untidy appearance, dependency, distrust of employers, so they become waste pickers and beggars for a living. The experience of interviewee #7 was as follows:

“If addicts left addiction, they would go back because they are unemployed.”

The majority of homeless people we interviewed used their money to buy narcotics. They have always met their nutritional needs by recovering reusable or recyclable materials and preparing junk foods, harmful foods and snacks. As a result, they suffered from malnutrition and digestive problems. Non-governmental organizations sometimes prepare foods for these people, the quality of which must be checked and, if possible, they must be designed on purpose and according to nutritional standards.

Lack of access to health facilities and medical assistance

Were other experiences of homeless young adults. These people became aware of the low level of health infrastructure due to the lack of permanent shelters and street life. One of the main faults of these people was the inaccessibility of a suitable place for bathing, sanitary services and detergents. Homeless women had more difficulty accessing health services such as sanitary napkins. They had to use inappropriate methods and tools due to economic problems and a lack of support from the authorities. One of the problems of these people in the field of medical facilities was the lack of money and the high cost of medical services, so they preferred self-medication.

“I don’t have enough money to buy sanitary pads every month. I wash pads and use them as tampons, or sometimes use paper tissues. (Participant #10).

“Sometimes we get sick, but God helps us because we have no one. Our pain improves quickly, and we do not visit the doctor, and our disease will be treated with herbal medicines or those prepared in pharmacies. (Participant #13).

Insufficient charitable donations

Most homeless people depend on charitable donations to provide daily food, seasonal clothing, medical supplies and free medical care. The lack of support made it difficult to meet their needs.

“Once every 5 to 6 days, they come from the camp and give us little material. (Participant #2).