Assessing homeless mentally ill persons for permanent housing: screening for safety

Community Ment Health J. 1996 Jun;32(3):275-88. doi: 10.1007/BF02249428.


Although placement in community housing is a frequent intervention with populations of seriously mentally ill homeless individuals, there has been little formal investigation of the criteria used by clinicians in screening individuals for such placement. In this paper, we describe screening a population of 303 homeless people with severe mental illness for placement in independent apartments. We assess subjects' level of risk along multiple dimensions and determine the contribution of each risk dimension to the final safety decision. In addition, we evaluate the validity of the risk measures with other measures of clinical condition. Two-thirds of the sample were judged as safe for independent living. Assaultiveness was the most frequent risk identified, followed by self-destructiveness, substance abuse, and medication non-compliance. The final safety decision was associated most strongly with assaultiveness, self-destructiveness, and medication non-compliance. We conclude that it is possible to assess risk with measures that are available from shelter and medical records, and call for more research on the role of medication non-compliance in safety decisions and for longitudinal research to validate risk assessments.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Group Homes
  • Housing*
  • Humans
  • Ill-Housed Persons / psychology*
  • Mental Disorders / rehabilitation*
  • Regression Analysis
  • Risk Factors
  • Safety
  • Self-Injurious Behavior
  • Substance-Related Disorders
  • Treatment Refusal
  • Violence