Health and Environment of Homeless Women

Professor Felicia Hodge

By Felicia Hodge

School of Nursing and Public Health Professor Felicia Hodge and School of Public Health Associate Professor Jane Valentine (co-Investigator) have received a CSW Faculty Research Grant for a pilot investigating the health and environment of homeless women in Los Angeles.

Cities are experiencing more and more migration of homeless individuals. The city and county of Los Angeles (LAC) report a homeless population of 50,000-60,000 on any given night; 31% of whom are women. Shelters are limited, health care minimal if at all available, and the environment of the homeless is in a state of flux. This state of flux can be due to climate change and other factors. Psychological impacts can be enormous. Homeless women, in particular, are at risk of violence, psycho-socio problems, and poor health. Efforts to address the environment of the homeless is difficult and often poorly executed. Without a better understanding of the environment of homeless women, efforts to provide interventions and/or needed assistance will be limited.

The initial steps of this study will be a pilot investigation of the status of homeless women via a sample of 50 homeless women aged 18-80 in LAC. Data collected from self-reports of their past to their current state will prove invaluable in assessing decline as well as their current status in several aspects of these homeless women’s lives. Additional data will be obtained from a questionnaire that measures five aspects of interest in order to obtain an overview of the each homeless individual’s status. These areas include health status (illness and healthcare provider visits), financial status (sources of income and annual amount), social support and networks, mental health (including depression and suicide ideation), and risky behaviors (i.e., tobacco, substance abuse and unprotected sex), In addition, an evaluation of environmental amenities, nearby toilets, cooking and bathing facilities, drinking water and adequate cover (e.g., tents) will provide desirable information developed from a feasibility/assessment overview in homeless neighborhoods.

This pilot will lay the foundation for a larger scale study addressing factors associated with homelessness that have potential for feasible solutions. There is a great need to identify the status of homeless women in terms of their health status, socio-economic status, mental health status, environmental status and shelter needs as well as the environmental context of homeless women.