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Women Health. 2004;40(2):87-100.

Access to women's health care: a qualitative study of barriers perceived by homeless women.

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Department of Family Medicine, David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA, 50-071 CHS, Box 951683, Los Angeles, CA 90095-1683, USA.


Homelessness is an escalating national problem and women are disproportionately affected. Nevertheless, few studies have focused on the special circumstances associated with being a homeless woman. For instance, while both genders experience serious barriers to obtaining health care, homeless women face an additional burden by virtue of their sexual and reproductive health needs. The current study was conducted as the first stage of a qualitative/quantitative investigation of homeless women's access and barriers to family planning and women's health care. We interviewed 47 homeless women of diverse ages and ethnic backgrounds. A qualitative approach was initially taken to explore the factors homeless women themselves perceive as barriers to their use of birth control and women's health services, and factors they believe would facilitate their use. Key findings are that health is not a priority for homeless women, that transportation and scheduling can be particularly burdensome for homeless women, and that being homeless leads some to feel stigmatized by health care providers. Despite being homeless, having children was extremely important to the women in our study. At the same time, those interested in contraception confronted significant barriers in their efforts to prevent pregnancies. We conclude with suggested interventions that would make general, gynecological, and reproductive health care more accessible to homeless women.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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