197315 Exiting Shelter: An Epidemiological Analysis of Barriers and Facilitators for Families

Tuesday, November 10, 2009: 3:10 PM

Linda Weinreb, MD , Family Medicine and Community Health, University of Massachusetts Medical School, Worcester, MA
Debra Rog, PhD , Westat, Inc, Rockville, MD
Kathryn Henderson, PhD , Westat, Inc, Rockville, MD
Background: Homeless families differ in homelessness patterns, needs, and responsiveness to different interventions. It is important to determine which families can exit shelter quickly and which families may require more assistance to exit. The current study was designed to understand the factors that predict length of shelter stay. It is the first study specifically designed to examine the shelter exit process.

Methods: Families staying in emergency family shelters in Worcester, Massachusetts between November, 2006 and November, 2007 were interviewed at shelter exit (n=121). The main dependent variable was the number of days in emergency shelter. The interview collected demographic, housing, health and resource/service information. Descriptive analyses were performed. Using ordinary least squares (OLS) regression, we regressed selected independent variables on length of shelter stay.

Results: Families stayed an average of 6 months in shelter, with 9% staying less than 2 months and 20% over 9 months. Mothers with a positive alcohol/drug screen stayed 87 days longer than average; having a housing subsidy also increased the length of stay by 67 days. Those who stayed significantly longer in shelter were also less likely to have other adults in the household. Demographic factors, number of children, health and mental health factors, and household conflicts did not significantly predict length of shelter stay.

Conclusion: This study provides an opportunity to understand factors that relate to the length of time families remain in shelter. Findings can help policymakers and programs to more effectively target services to families to expedite their shelter exit.

Learning Objectives:
Describe research that examines factors associated with shelter duration and residential stability for homeless families. Discuss factors associated with shelter duration in a MA based prosepctive study focused on exits for homeless families. Explain the implications for policy and practice.

Presenting author's disclosure statement:

Qualified on the content I am responsible for because: None
Any relevant financial relationships? No

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.