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Health Services Research & Development

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2017 HSR&D/QUERI National Conference Abstract

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1016 — Impacts of Intimate and Sexual Violence Experiences on Women Veterans' Housing Stability

Lead/Presenter: Melissa Dichter, COIN - Pittsburgh/Philadelphia
All Authors: Dichter ME (Center for Health Equity Research and Promotion) Yu B (Center for Health Equity Research and Promotion) True G (South Central Mental Illness Research, Education and Clinical Center) Cusack M (Center for Health Equity Research and Promotion) Butler A (Center for Health Equity Research and Promotion) Chhabra M (Center for Health Equity Research and Promotion) Montgomery AE (National Center on Homelessness Among Veterans)

Women Veterans face disproportionate risks of housing instability, including actual homelessness, compared with both women non-Veterans and male Veterans. Experiences of interpersonal violence, including intimate partner violence and non-partner sexual violence, can lead to housing instability through direct and indirect pathways. The objective of this study was to understand the ways in which experiences of interpersonal violence and concerns about safety contribute to housing instability and housing considerations among women Veterans.

In-depth qualitative interviews were conducted with 20 women Veterans who had screened positive for housing instability (current or risk of imminent homelessness) at a Veterans Affairs Medical Center, using the Homelessness Screening Clinical Reminder. Transcripts of recorded interviews were coded and analyzed using thematic template analysis.

Themes emerging from the interviews fell into three broad domains: (1) direct and indirect impacts of interpersonal violence on housing instability; (2) impacts of interpersonal violence on definitions of safe and secure housing; and (3) experiences of interpersonal violence as a barrier to seeking and receiving services. Participants highlighted ways in which considerations around personal safety shape their access to acceptable housing options. Analysis of the narratives further revealed particular service needs related to experiences of partner violence, including the need for confidentiality in communications with service providers as well as the need to examine definitions of homelessness and risk in the context of interpersonal violence and safety.

Study findings add to the literature on the intersection of violence and housing instability among women Veterans. Concerns about personal safety, in particular, safety from interpersonal violence, are paramount to women Veterans who have experienced such violence when seeking secure and stable housing. Experiences of interpersonal violence can lead to housing instability among women Veterans and serve as a barrier to service access. Programs that seek to prevent and end homelessness among women Veterans must attend to such concerns and attend to client safety needs that are often time-sensitive and requiring of privacy and confidentiality.

The study holds implications for programs that address housing and safety for female Veterans.