Developing and testing an intervention to prevent homelessness among individuals discharged from psychiatric wards to shelters and ‘No Fixed Address’
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Shelter data in a recent study revealed discharges from psychiatric facilities to shelters or the street occurred at least 194 times in 2002 in London, Ontario, Canada. This problem must be addressed to reduce the disastrous effects of such discharge, including re-hospitalization and prolonged homelessness. An intervention was developed and tested to prevent homelessness associated with discharge directly to no fixed address. A total of 14 participants at-risk of being discharged without housing were enrolled, with half randomized into the intervention group. The intervention group was provided with immediate assistance in accessing housing and assistance in paying their first and last month's rent. The control group received usual care. Data was collected from participants prior to discharge, at 31 and 6-months post-discharge. All the individuals in the intervention group maintained housing after 3 and 6 months. All but one individual in the control group remained homeless after 3 and 6 months. The exception joined the sex trade to avoid homelessness. The results of this pilot were so dramatic that randomizing to the control group was discontinued. Discussions are underway to routinely implement the intervention. Systemic improvements can prevent homelessness for individuals being discharged from psychiatric wards.
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