Despite experiencing a disproportionate burden of acute and chronic health issues, many homeless people face barriers to primary health care. Most studies on health care access among homeless populations have been conducted in the United States, and relatively few are available from countries such as Canada that have a system of universal health insurance. We investigated access to primary health care among a representative sample of homeless adults in Toronto, Canada.
Homeless adults were recruited from shelter and meal programs in downtown Toronto between November 2006 and February 2007. Cross-sectional data were collected on demographic characteristics, health status, health determinants and access to health care. We used multivariable logistic regression analysis to investigate the association between having a family doctor as the usual source of health care (an indicator of access to primary care) and health status, proof of health insurance, and substance use after adjustment for demographic characteristics.
Of the 366 participants included in our study, 156 (43%) reported having a family doctor. After adjustment for potential confounders and covariates, we found that the odds of having a family doctor significantly decreased with every additional year spent homeless in the participant's lifetime (adjusted odds ratio [OR] 0.91, 95% confidence interval [CI] 0.86-0.97). Having a family doctor was significantly associated with being lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgendered (adjusted OR 2.70, 95% CI 1.04-7.00), having a health card (proof of health insurance coverage in the province of Ontario) (adjusted OR 2.80, 95% CI 1.61-4.89) and having a chronic medical condition (adjusted OR 1.91, 95% CI 1.03-3.53).
Less than half of the homeless people in Toronto who participated in our study reported having a family doctor. Not having a family doctor was associated with key indicators of health care access and health status, including increasing duration of homelessness, lack of proof of health insurance coverage and having a chronic medical condition. Increased efforts are needed to address the barriers to appropriate health care and good health that persist in this population despite the provision of health insurance.
The forces which affect homelessness are complex and often interactive in nature. Social forces such as addictions, family breakdown, and mental illness are compounded by structural forces such as lack of available low-cost housing, poor economic conditions, and insufficient mental health services. Together these factors impact levels of homelessness through their dynamic relations. Historic models, which are static in nature, have only been marginally successful in capturing these relationships.
Fuzzy Logic (FL) and fuzzy cognitive maps (FCMs) are particularly suited to the modeling of complex social problems, such as homelessness, due to their inherent ability to model intricate, interactive systems often described in vague conceptual terms and then organize them into a specific, concrete form (i.e., the FCM) which can be readily understood by social scientists and others. Using FL we converted information, taken from recently published, peer reviewed articles, for a select group of factors related to homelessness and then calculated the strength of influence (weights) for pairs of factors. We then used these weighted relationships in a FCM to test the effects of increasing or decreasing individual or groups of factors. Results of these trials were explainable according to current empirical knowledge related to homelessness.
Prior graphic maps of homelessness have been of limited use due to the dynamic nature of the concepts related to homelessness. The FCM technique captures greater degrees of dynamism and complexity than static models, allowing relevant concepts to be manipulated and interacted. This, in turn, allows for a much more realistic picture of homelessness. Through network analysis of the FCM we determined that Education exerts the greatest force in the model and hence impacts the dynamism and complexity of a social problem such as homelessness.
The FCM built to model the complex social system of homelessness reasonably represented reality for the sample scenarios created. This confirmed that the model worked and that a search of peer reviewed, academic literature is a reasonable foundation upon which to build the model. Further, it was determined that the direction and strengths of relationships between concepts included in this map are a reasonable approximation of their action in reality. However, dynamic models are not without their limitations and must be acknowledged as inherently exploratory.
Cites: Am J Public Health. 2000 Dec;90(12):1939-4111111273
Cites: Am J Public Health. 2002 Feb;92(2):220-711818295
To examine the prevalence of homelessness and its relationship to mental disorder, criminal behaviour, and health care.
Interview and file data were collected for 790 male admissions to a large, pretrial jail facility over a 12-month period.
A significant relationship was found between homelessness and severe mental disorder as well as between homelessness and prior psychiatric history. There were no significant differences found between the homeless and the nonhomeless on the types of crimes for which they were incarcerated or on contact with health care services within the past year.
The findings indicate the need for a link between the jail and community services for homeless individuals.
This study was carried out with three goals: (1) to determine the prevalence of suicidal ideation and suicide attempts among the homeless; (2) to determine what aspects of homelessness predict suicidality, and (3) to determine which aspects remain predictive after controlling for key covariates, such as mental illness. A sample of 330 homeless adults were interviewed. Sixty-one percent of the study sample reported suicidal ideation and 34% had attempted suicide. Fifty-six percent of the men and 78% of the women reported prior suicidal ideation, while 28 percent of the men and 57% of the women had attempted suicide. Childhood homelessness of at least 1 week without family members and periods of homelessness longer than 6 months were found to be associated with suicidal ideation. Psychiatric diagnoses were also associated with suicidality in this sample.
Factors associated with positive outcomes for homeless men referred to a shelter-based collaborative mental health care team were examined.
A chart review of 73 clients referred over 12 months was completed. Two outcome measures were examined, clinical status and housing status, 6 months after their referral to the program.
Among the referred clients, the prevalence of severe and persistent mental illness and substance use disorders was 76.5% and 48.5%, respectively. At 6 months, 24 clients (35.3%) had improved clinically, and 33 (48.5%) were housed. Logistic regression identified 2 factors associated with clinical improvement: the number of visits with a psychiatrist and treatment adherence. The same 2 factors were associated with higher odds of housing, and presence of substance use disorder was associated with lower odds of housing at 6-month follow-up.
Care by a mental health specialist is positively associated with improved outcomes. Strategies to improve treatment adherence, access to mental health specialists, and innovative approaches to treatment of substance use disorders should be considered for this population. Having a psychiatrist as a member of a shelter-based collaborative care team is one possible way of addressing the complex physical and mental health needs of homeless individuals.
The paper presents findings from a longitudinal study identifying different classes of homeless individuals in a mid-size Canadian city based on health-related characteristics and comparing the housing trajectories of these classes 2 years later. Using data collected through in-person interviews with a sample of 329 single persons who have experienced homelessness, the paper presents results of a latent class analysis. Results found four distinct latent classes characterized by different levels of severity of health problems--i.e., a class of individuals who are "Higher Functioning" (28.7%), a second class with "Substance Abuse Problems" (27.1%), a third class with "Mental Health Substance Abuse Problems" (22.6%), and a fourth class with "Complex Physical and Mental Health Problems" (21.6%) that included having diminished physical functioning, multiple chronic physical health conditions, mental health difficulties, and in some cases substance abuse problems. Follow-up interviews with 197 of these individuals (59.9%) 2 years later showed the class of individuals with substance abuse problems experiencing the greatest difficulty in exiting homelessness and achieving housing stability. Implications of these findings for social policy development and program planning are discussed.
The main purpose of the study was to describe the characteristics of homeless psychiatric patients, and to compare the treatment they are offered to that offered to domiciled patients by the psychiatric services. Another purpose was to analyse the prevalence of homelessness among psychiatric patients before and after the introduction of community mental health centres in Copenhagen. Cross-sectional studies were conducted in two intervention and two control districts before and after introduction of the new treatment modalities. In 1991, 80 of 1008 patients (8%) were homeless. Male sex, young age, living on general welfare, schizophrenia and alcohol or substance abuse were the factors that most markedly differentiated homeless from domiciled patients. Compared with the treatment of domiciled patients, the homeless were more likely to be offered no further treatment after consultation in a psychiatric emergency and, if admitted, they were more likely to be placed in locked wards, given compulsory medication, and medicated with depot neuroleptics. The homeless were also less likely to be offered psychotherapy and consultation with a social worker. Schizophrenia and alcohol or substance abuse characterised the majority of the patients discharged homeless. In the intervention districts, the number of homeless patients in contact with the psychiatric services was found to increase at the same rate as the number of all patients in contact with the psychiatric services. In the control districts, no changes in prevalence of homeless patients or other patients in contact with the psychiatric services occurred. It is concluded that homeless psychiatric patients comprise a difficult patient group, with problems of schizophrenia, substance abuse and lack of motivation for treatment. It is recommended that special efforts be made to create housing facilities that fit the needs of different types of homeless patients, and that the homeless mentally ill are assisted in obtaining and maintaining an acceptable housing situation.
Substance use can be a barrier to stable housing for homeless persons with mental disorders. We examined DSM-IV symptoms among homeless adults (N?=?497), comparing those who reported daily substance use (DSU) with non-daily substance users. Multivariable linear regression modeling was used to test the independent association between DSU and symptoms using the Colorado Symptom Index total score. DSU was independently associated with higher symptoms (beta?=?3.67, 95 % CI 1.55-5.77) adjusting for homelessness history, age, gender, ethnicity, education, marital status, and mental disorder sub-type (adjusted R (2)?=?0.24). We observed a higher prevalence of DSU in our sample than has been previously reported in a Housing First intervention. DSU was also independently associated with more DSM-IV symptomatology. We have an opportunity to observe this cohort longitudinally and examine if there are changes in substance use based on treatment assignment and commensurate changes in housing stability, community integration, health status, and quality of life.
Cites: Addict Behav. 1982;7(3):231-427180617
Cites: Scand J Public Health. 2011 Mar;39(2):121-721247970
Shelter data in a recent study revealed discharges from psychiatric facilities to shelters or the street occurred at least 194 times in 2002 in London, Ontario, Canada. This problem must be addressed to reduce the disastrous effects of such discharge, including re-hospitalization and prolonged homelessness. An intervention was developed and tested to prevent homelessness associated with discharge directly to no fixed address. A total of 14 participants at-risk of being discharged without housing were enrolled, with half randomized into the intervention group. The intervention group was provided with immediate assistance in accessing housing and assistance in paying their first and last month's rent. The control group received usual care. Data was collected from participants prior to discharge, at 31 and 6-months post-discharge. All the individuals in the intervention group maintained housing after 3 and 6 months. All but one individual in the control group remained homeless after 3 and 6 months. The exception joined the sex trade to avoid homelessness. The results of this pilot were so dramatic that randomizing to the control group was discontinued. Discussions are underway to routinely implement the intervention. Systemic improvements can prevent homelessness for individuals being discharged from psychiatric wards.