151420 Are homeless persons geographically “warehoused”? Examining the neighborhood context of homelessness

Wednesday, November 7, 2007: 9:15 AM

Ben Alexander-Eitzman, MSW, LCSW, PhD , Department of Social Work, Appalachian State University, Boone, NC
David Pollio, PhD , Washington University, St Louis, MO
Carol North, MD, MPE , Department of Psychiatry, University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center, Dallas, TX
Brian McKean , School of Social Work, University of Alabama, Tuscaloosa, AL
Introduction: It has been suggested that homeless persons are geographically “warehoused,” creating barriers to exiting homelessness. The purpose of this study is to understand what characteristics define the neighborhoods that homeless people find themselves in and how these compare to the areas that they come from and move to over time.

Methods: Addresses were extracted from the NIDA-funded Service Use, Costs, and Outcomes in a Drug Abusing homeless population (SUNCODA) study, which collected interview data on 400 randomly sampled homeless people from shelter and street locations in the St. Louis region. Addresses at Baseline, Last (pre-baseline) Stable Housing, and Last Study Contact were compared using census demographic and housing information.

Results: Shelters, which serve the majority of this sample population, are concentrated in a relatively small urban area of the greater St. Louis region. Neighborhoods for sleeping locations at Baseline had significantly lower median income, higher median house prices, and higher proportions of rental units than both the Last Housed and the Last Contact neighborhoods. Median rent, employment, and vacant housing did not differ between time points. Townsend Index Scores, indicating area resources, were also significantly lower for Baseline than for the other time points.

Discussion: These findings reflect movement towards areas of lower-cost housing and decreased resource opportunity as individuals become homeless. In spite of limitations, the findings from this study support the “warehousing” explanation posited in previous research. Policy implications affirm the importance of examining neighborhood characteristics in addressing service provision to the homeless population.

Learning Objectives:
1. Recognize the importance of neighborhood context in understanding homelessness. 2. Become familiar with geographical information system methods for empirical analysis.

Keywords: Homelessness, Geographic Information Systems

Presenting author's disclosure statement:

Any relevant financial relationships? No
Any institutionally-contracted trials related to this submission?

I agree to comply with the American Public Health Association Conflict of Interest and Commercial Support Guidelines, and to disclose to the participants any off-label or experimental uses of a commercial product or service discussed in my presentation.