National Comparison of Literally Homeless Male and Female VA Service Users: Entry Characteristics, Clinical Needs, and Service Patterns

Women s Health Issues (Impact Factor: 2.33). 12/2013; 24(1). DOI: 10.1016/j.whi.2013.09.007
Source: PubMed


Although there are growing numbers of homeless female U.S. veterans, the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) has traditionally served a predominantly male population; thus, it is important to examine differences between homeless female and male veterans in their service needs and the current provision of VA homeless services.
A national registry of 119,947 users of VA homeless services from 2011 to 2012 was used to 1) estimate the proportion of female veterans among VA homeless service users, 2) examine the proportion of VA homeless service users who are literally homeless by gender, and 3) report differences between female and male VA homeless service users who are literally homeless on sociodemographic and clinical characteristics, as well as on outreach, referral, and admission patterns for an array of specialized VA services.
Of VA homeless service users, 8% were female compared with 7% among all homeless veterans, 6% among all VA service users, and 7% among all veterans. Of female VA homeless service users, 54% were literally homeless, slightly fewer than the 59% of male VA homeless service users. Comparing literally homeless VA service users, females were younger, 21% more had dependent children, 8% more were diagnosed with non-military-related posttraumatic stress disorder, and 19% to 20% more were referred and admitted to VA's supported housing program than males.
Female veterans use VA homeless services at a rate similar to their use of general VA services and they have unique needs, especially for child care, which may require additional specialized resources.

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    ABSTRACT: Homelessness among US veterans has been a focus of research for over 3 decades. Following Preferred Reporting Items for Systematic Reviews and Meta-Analyses (PRISMA) guidelines, this is the first systematic review to summarize research on risk factors for homelessness among US veterans and to evaluate the evidence for these risk factors. Thirty-one studies published from 1987 to 2014 were divided into 3 categories: more rigorous studies, less rigorous studies, and studies comparing homeless veterans with homeless nonveterans. The strongest and most consistent risk factors were substance use disorders and mental illness, followed by low income and other income-related factors. There was some evidence that social isolation, adverse childhood experiences, and past incarceration were also important risk factors. Veterans, especially those who served since the advent of the all-volunteer force, were at greater risk for homelessness than other adults. Homeless veterans were generally older, better educated, and more likely to be male, married/have been married, and to have health insurance coverage than other homeless adults. More studies simultaneously addressing premilitary, military, and postmilitary risk factors for veteran homelessness are needed. This review identifies substance use disorders, mental illness, and low income as targets for policies and programs in efforts to end homelessness among veterans. Published by Oxford University Press on behalf of the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health 2015. This work is written by (a) US Government employee(s) and is in the public domain in the US.
    No preview · Article · Jan 2015 · Epidemiologic Reviews