Objective: The study examined the prevalence and correlates of criminal victimization and the relationship between victimization and client outcomes for homeless clients with mental illness.
Methods: Subjects were clients in community treatment programs participating in the Access to Community Care and Effective Services and Supports (ACCESS) program of the Center for Mental Health Services. Data were obtained through interviews conducted at program entry and at three and 12 months after entry with ACCESS clients in 18 sites during the first year of program operation (N = 1,839). Self-reports of victimization during the past two months as well as data on sociodemographic, health, and social adjustment indicators were obtained at each time point. Multiple regression was used to determine both the correlates of victimization among this population and the effect of recent victimization on client outcomes three and 12 months after program entry.
Results: Forty-four percent of the clients were the victims of at least one crime during the two months before entering the program. Women were significantly more likely than men to have been victimized. Multivariate analysis showed that the more severe the client's psychotic symptoms, alcohol abuse, and criminal history, the more likely he or she was to have been victimized. Recent victimization had a significant impact on client outcomes in terms of increased homelessness and decreased quality of life. Victimization shortly before program entry was also the single most important predictor of victimization at both follow-up points.
Conclusions: These findings suggest the critical need for service providers who work with homeless people with serious mental illness to assess the extent to which they have been victims of crime and to address issues of victimization and safety along with psychiatric and social adjustment problems.