Vulnerability Factors for Homelessness Associated with Substance Dependence in a Community Sample of Homeless Adults

by Brenda M. Booth, Greer Sullivan, Paul Koegel, M. Audrey Burnam

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We studied a community probability sample of 1185 homeless individuals to examine substance dependence in relationship to other personal and social vulnerabilities linked to homelessness, including sociodemographics, childhood/adolescent factors, pre-homelessness factors, multiple episodes of homelessness, and the quality of shelter in their current episode of homelessness. These vulnerability factors were significantly concentrated in homeless individuals with lifetime and recent substance dependence, especially among those with both alcohol and drug dependence. In addition, the profiles of the homeless with alcohol dependence alone were distinct from those with drug dependence alone or both, with older age, more males, longer histories of homelessness, and significantly poorer quality shelter during the previous 30 days. Therefore, homeless individuals with substance dependence have many vulnerabilities beyond their substance dependence that should be dealt with in treatment or other service settings before lasting housing can be achieved.

Originally published in: American Journal of Drug and Alcohol Abuse, v. 28, no. 3, 2002, pp. 429-452.

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