142nd APHA Annual Meeting and Exposition

Annual Meeting Recordings are now available for purchase

Vulnerabilities of ever homeless families and unaccompanied persons: New insights from population data

142nd APHA Annual Meeting and Exposition (November 15 - November 19, 2014): http://www.apha.org/events-and-meetings/annual
Tuesday, November 18, 2014 : 11:30 AM - 11:50 AM

Sarah Oppenheimer, MPH , Evans School of Public Affairs, University of Washington, Seattle, WA
Sara Green, Doctoral Candidate, MSW , School of Social Work, University of Washington, Seattle, WA
Paula Nurius, PhD , School of Social Work, University of Washington, Seattle, WA
Introduction: Homelessness research has predominantly relied on shelter data and/or localized samples. While providing foundational insights into the social and health correlates of acute homelessness, this leaves critical gaps regarding homelessness in the general population--particularly problematic for understanding family homelessness, where shelter use is limited and varies by local policies. This paper helps fill this gap, with emphasis on characteristics and service needs of ever-homeless families within a representative state population. Methods/Results: Stratified random sampling based state survey (Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System--BRFSS) data (N=14,769) were used to contrast respondents with/without histories of homelessness and living with/without minor children. MANOVA tests revealed consistent and significant differences across these four groups: ever homeless parents reported least education, income, and social support, greatest adverse childhood experiences, unemployment and current food and medical care insecurity, and, relative to never homeless parents, higher health risk indictors (BMI, smoking, alcohol use, incarceration) and poorer physical and mental health. Multivariate regressions indicate that a history of homelessness is significantly associated with current economic hardship and worse mental health status, and, particularly among nonparents, participation in high-risk health behaviors. Furthermore, models demonstrate an ameliorative influence of protective factors such as social support and greater human capital, suggesting areas for prevention and intervention. Implications: These findings enlarge the picture of homelessness as a risk for subsequent individual and family health as well as economic precariousness, and emphasize the need for research addressing the unique precursors and implications of family homelessness. This evidence suggests that policies designed to end family homelessness should include service strategies to counter long-term consequences of homelessness. Moreover, this study argues the value of data sources such as BRFSS for obtaining more generalizable estimates on trends and consequences of family homelessness. 

Learning Areas:

Public health or related public policy
Public health or related research
Social and behavioral sciences

Learning Objectives:
Describe adult homelessness prevalence in families with minor children and unaccompanied persons within a representative state population. Identify characteristics of ever-homeless parents and nonparents, and associations of adult homelessness with current economic hardship, health risk behaviors, and physical and mental health status in these two populations.

Keyword(s): Homelessness, Health Disparities/Inequities

Presenting author's disclosure statement:

Qualified on the content I am responsible for because: I have worked in homeless health research and services for over a decade. I participated in the conception writing, and analysis of the submitted article.
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.