Purpose: To document the prevalence, timing, associations and short-term housing outcomes of homelessness among acute psychiatric inpatients.
Methods: Cross-sectional study of 4,386 acute psychiatric admissions discharged from a single NHS Trust in 2008-2009.
Results: Homelessness occurred in 16%. Most homelessness (70%) was either recorded as present at admission or started within 1 week. It was associated with younger age; male gender; ethnicity other than White British or Black African/Caribbean; being single, divorced, separated or widowed; diagnosis of drug and alcohol disorder; detention under a forensic section of the Mental Health Act; having no previous admission or alternatively having a longer previous admission; having a low score on the depressed mood or hallucinations and delusions items of the Health of the Nation Outcome Scales (HoNOS); and having a high score on the HoNOS relationship difficulties and occupation and activities items. Of those who were followed-up for 28 days after discharge, 53% had a new address recorded; of those who were not, only 22% did.
Conclusions: Homelessness affects a substantial minority of psychiatric admissions in the UK. Housing outcomes are uncertain, and it is possible that more than half continue to be homeless or living in very transient situations. Demographic and diagnostic associations with homelessness were consistent with US studies; associations with HoNOS item scores and having had no admission in the preceding 2 years suggest that, in many cases, social adversity predominates over active psychopathology at the time of admission.