Study Determines Predictors Associated with Homelessness among Women Veterans
- Among women Veterans, being unemployed, disabled, or unmarried were the strongest predictors of homelessness.
- Homeless women Veterans also were significantly more likely than housed women Veterans to have low incomes, to have experienced military sexual assault (53%), to be in fair to poor health, to have diagnosed medical conditions, and to screen positive for anxiety disorder and/or PTSD.
- Homeless women Veterans were significantly less likely than housed women Veterans to be college graduates or to have health insurance, but were more likely to have used mental health services, VA health care, or been hospitalized in the prior 12 months.
- Homeless Veterans had an average of four entries into and exits out of homelessness, and the median length of time they spent being homeless (over lifetime) was 2.1 years.
- Of the homeless women Veterans, 16% had children under the age of 18 living with them in the prior 12 months.
An estimated 26% of homeless adults are Veterans, and women who have served in the U.S. military are three to four times more likely to become homeless than non-Veteran women. Risk factors for homelessness among women Veterans have not been defined. Therefore, this case-control study sought to determine risk factors associated with homelessness in non-institutionalized women Veterans (n=33), and to compare their health and health care use with that of a matched sample of housed women Veterans (n=165). Homeless women Veterans were recruited from Los Angeles County between December '05 and January '06, and were interviewed in person (n=30) or by telephone (n=3).
- Because of the case-control design of the study, investigators could not calculate what percentage of women who have risk-factors for homelessness would actually become homeless over a given period.
- Authors suggest that interventions to address homelessness should be aimed at both alleviating homelessness and its consequences, as well as preventing homelessness in at-risk women (e.g., expanding availability of college education, job training, and transitional housing).
- They also suggest that efforts to assess housed women Veterans' risk factors for homelessness be integrated into clinical care programs within and outside VA.
This study was partly supported through HSR&D (study GEN 00-082), and Dr. Washington was supported by an HSR&D Career Development Award. Drs. Washington and Yano are part of HSR&D's Center for the Study of Healthcare Provider Behavior in Sepulveda, CA.
Washington D, Yano E, McGuire J, et al. Risk Factors for Homelessness among Women Veterans. Brief Communication, Journal of Health Care for the Poor and Underserved Feb 2010;21(1):81-91.