UCLA Study Finds Health Problems, Trauma Rates High for Unsheltered Homeless - NBC Southern California
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Southern California's Homelessness Epidemic

UCLA Study Finds Health Problems, Trauma Rates High for Unsheltered Homeless

About half of all unsheltered respondents said they suffer from a combination of physical and mental health issues and a substance abuse condition, what researchers call a state of "trimorbidity."

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    Homeless sleeping on the streets on September 20, 2019, in downtown Los Angeles, California, the state with the largest homeless population in America. (Photo by Frederic J. BROWN / AFP /Getty Images)

    UCLA released a two-year study Monday that concludes mental and physical health care needs and traumatic experiences are "major factors" afflicting unsheltered homeless people, especially women.

    "People experiencing homelessness face a number of challenges related to their health and well-being, but this new analysis suggests that people who are unsheltered are far more likely to encounter these problems and that the problems are exacerbated the longer they are unsheltered," said Janey Rountree, executive director of the California Policy Lab at UCLA. "These issues were the most profound for unsheltered women, especially experiences with abuse and trauma."

    The California Policy Lab analyzed survey responses from more than 64,000 people ages 25 and older who were homeless, sheltered or sheltered, in 15 states from 2015 to 2017.

    Both unsheltered and sheltered people reported experiences of abuse and/or trauma had caused them to become homeless, but 80% of unsheltered women reported abuse and/or trauma as the cause of their transiency -- much higher rates than the 34% of unsheltered men who responded the same.

    "While individuals who are sheltered report on average fewer health and mental health conditions, the data does not support a finding that shelter is the cause of improved health," according to the Policy Lab.

    About half of all unsheltered respondents said they suffer from a combination of physical and mental health issues and a substance abuse condition, what researchers call a state of "trimorbidity." The number of people who reported those issues was more than 25 times the number of sheltered individuals.

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