By Sean Coffey, UCLA Newsroom, October 7, 2019
A report released today finds that physical and mental health care needs as well as abuse and traumatic experiences are major contributing factors to a loss of housing for unsheltered people, especially unsheltered women. A research team at the California Policy Lab analyzed survey responses from more than 64,000 single adults ages 25 and older who were experiencing sheltered or unsheltered homelessness in 15 states across the U.S. from 2015 through 2017.
It is estimated that more than half a million people are homeless on a given night in the United States, nearly 200,000 of whom are unsheltered — sleeping on sidewalks, in parks, in cars, or in other outdoor locations. The analysis finds that people who are unsheltered are far more likely to report having chronic health conditions, mental health issues, and experiences with trauma and substance abuse as compared to homeless people who are living in shelters. Further, people with the longest periods of homelessness and the most significant health conditions are not accessing and being served by emergency shelters. Rather than being sheltered or housed and receiving appropriate care, they are instead regularly engaged by police and emergency responders.
“People experiencing homelessness face a number of challenges related to their health and well-being, but this new analysis suggests that people who are unsheltered are far more likely to encounter these problems and that the problems are exacerbated the longer they are unsheltered,” said Janey Rountree, executive director of the California Policy Lab at UCLA. “These issues were the most profound for unsheltered women, especially experiences with abuse and trauma.”