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Am J Public Health. 2007 Mar;97(3):464-9. Epub 2007 Jan 31.

Homelessness, health status, and health care use.

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  • 1Department of Psychiatry, Columbia College of Physicians and Surgeons, and the Center for Homelessness Prevention Studies, Mailman School of Public Health, Columbia University, New York, NY 10032, USA.



Little is known about the health status of those who are newly homeless. We sought to describe the health status and health care use of new clients of homeless shelters and observe changes in these health indicators over the study period.


We conducted a longitudinal study of 445 individuals from their entry into the homeless shelter system through the subsequent 18 months.


Disease was prevalent in the newly homeless. This population accessed health care services at high rates in the year before becoming homeless. Significant improvements in health status were seen over the study period as well as a significant increase in the number who were insured.


Newly homeless persons struggle under the combined burdens of residential instability and significant levels of physical disease and mental illness, but many experience some improvements in their health status and access to care during their time in the homeless shelter system.

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