Objective: This analysis examined the impact of permanent supportive housing on the use of acute care public health services by homeless people with mental illness, substance use disorder, and other disabilities.
Methods: The sample consisted of 236 single adults who entered supportive housing at two San Francisco sites, Canon Kip Community House and the Lyric Hotel, between October 10, 1994, and June 30, 1998. Eighty percent had a diagnosis of dual psychiatric and substance use disorders. Administrative data from the city's public health system were used to construct a retrospective, longitudinal history of service use. Analyses compared service use during the two years before entry into supportive housing with service use during the two years after entry.
Results: Eighty-one percent of residents remained in permanent supportive housing for at least one year. Housing placement significantly reduced the percentage of residents with an emergency department visit (53 to 37 percent), the average number of visits per person (1.94 to .86), and the total number of emergency department visits (56 percent decrease, from 457 to 202) for the sample as a whole. For hospitalizations, permanent supportive housing placement significantly reduced the likelihood of being hospitalized (19 to 11 percent) and the mean number of admissions per person (.34 to .19 admissions per resident).
Conclusions: Providing permanent supportive housing to homeless people with psychiatric and substance use disorders reduced their use of costly hospital emergency department and inpatient services, which are publicly provided.