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Psychiatr Serv. 1996 Jul;47(7):731-6.

Effects of substance abuse on housing stability of homeless mentally Ill persons in supported housing.

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  • 1Department of psychology, University of California, San Diego, USA.



The study examined two-year housing outcomes of homeless mentally ill clients who took part in an experimental investigation of supported housing. The relationships between housing outcomes and client characteristics, such as gender, psychiatric diagnosis, and substance use, were of primary interest.


A two-factor, longitudinal design was used. Homeless clients in San Diego County who were diagnosed as having chronic and severe mental illness were randomly assigned to four experimental conditions. Half of the clients were given better access to independent housing through Section 8 rent subsidy certificates. All clients received flexible case management, but half were provided more comprehensive case management services. The housing of each individual over a two-year period was classified in one of three categories: stable independent housing, stable housing in another setting in the community, or unstable housing.


Clients with access to Section 8 housing certificates were much more likely to achieve independent housing than clients without access to Section 8 certificates, but no differences emerged across the two different levels of case management. Housing stability was strongly mediated by several covariates, especially the presence of problems with drugs or alcohol.


Supported housing interventions can be very successful tools for stabilizing homeless mentally ill individuals in independent community settings. Advantages include the low level of restrictiveness of these settings and the preference of many clients for independent housing. However, the success of supported housing projects is likely to depend strongly on the specific characteristics of the population being served.

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