Objectives: We examined risk factors for long-term homelessness among newly homeless men and women who were admitted to New York City shelters in 2001 and 2002.
Methods: 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. Kaplan-Meier survival analysis and Cox regression were used to examine the association between baseline assessments and duration of homelessness.
Results: Eighty-one percent of participants returned to community housing during the follow-up period; the median duration of homelessness was 190 days. Kaplan-Meier survival analysis showed 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. Cox regression showed that older age group P<.05) and arrest history (P<.01) were the strongest predictors of a longer duration of homelessness.
Conclusions: 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.