Risk Factors For Long-Term Homelessness

Carol L. M. Caton, Boanerges Dominguez, Bella Schanzer,  Deborah S. Hasin, Patrick E. Shrout, Alan Felix, Hunter McQuistion, Lewis A. Opler and Eustace Hsu

October 2005

This study examines risk factors for long-term homelessness among newly homeless men and women who were admitted to New York City shelters in 2001 and 2002.  Interviews were conducted with 377 study participants upon entry into the shelter and at 6-month intervals for 18 months.  Standardized assessments of psychiatric diagnosis, symptoms, and coping skills; social and family history; and service use were analyzed. Eighty-one percent of participants returned to community housing during the follow-up period; the median duration of homelessness was 190 days.  The analysis revealed that a shorter duration of homelessness was associated with younger age, current or recent employment, earned income, good coping skills, adequate family support, absence of a substance abuse treatment history, and absence of an arrest history. The analysis also showed that older age and arrest history were the strongest predictors of a longer duration of homelessness.  The researchers conclude that identification of risk factors for long-term homelessness can guide efforts to reduce lengths of stay in homeless shelters and to develop new preventive interventions.

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