Healthcare service utilization for formerly homeless veterans in permanent supportive housing: Do neighborhoods matter?

Psychol Serv. 2022 Aug;19(3):471-479. doi: 10.1037/ser0000561. Epub 2021 Jun 3.


Neighborhood characteristics are associated with residents' healthcare use. However, we understand less about these relationships among formerly homeless persons, who often have complex healthcare needs, including mental health and substance use disorders. Among formerly homeless Veterans, we examined: (a) how neighborhood characteristics are associated with Veteran Health Administration (VHA) healthcare use and, (b) if these relationships varied by Veterans' level of healthcare need. We obtained data on our cohort of 711 Veterans housed through VHA's permanent supportive housing program (HUD-VASH) in 2016-2017 from VHA's Homeless Registry, VHA's electronic health records, and the U.S. Census. We studied the relationships between neighborhood characteristics (% Veteran, % in poverty, % unemployed, % using public transportation, and % vacant properties) and VA healthcare use (primary care visits, outpatient mental health visits, and "high use" of emergency departments [> 4 visits]) using mixed-effects logistic and negative binomial regression models, controlling for patient demographics. We further examined moderation by patient healthcare need (calculated from cost and clinical data). We found that veterans in neighborhoods with higher percentages of residents who (a) were Veterans or (b) used public transportation were more likely to have high emergency department use. Those in neighborhoods with higher public transportation use had more primary care visits while those in neighborhoods with more property vacancies had more outpatient mental health visits. Among those with high healthcare needs, residents of areas with more Veterans had higher emergency department use. Promoting public transportation use and social engagement with other Veterans in residential neighborhoods may influence HUD-VASH Veterans' VA healthcare use. (PsycInfo Database Record (c) 2022 APA, all rights reserved).

MeSH terms

  • Delivery of Health Care
  • Housing
  • Humans
  • Ill-Housed Persons* / psychology
  • Public Housing
  • United States
  • United States Department of Veterans Affairs
  • Veterans* / psychology