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Articles   |    
Characteristics and Service Use of Homeless Veterans and Nonveterans Residing in a Low-Demand Emergency Shelter
James C. Petrovich, Ph.D., L.M.S.W.; David E. Pollio, Ph.D., M.S.W.; Carol S. North, M.D., M.P.E.
Psychiatric Services 2014; doi: 10.1176/appi.ps.201300104
View Author and Article Information

Dr. Petrovich is with the Department of Social Work, Texas Christian University, Fort Worth (e-mail: j.petrovich@tcu.edu). Dr. Pollio is with the Department of Social Work, University of Alabama, Tuscaloosa. Dr. North is with the Department of Psychiatry, University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center, Dallas.

Copyright © 2014 by the American Psychiatric Association

Abstract

Objectives  This study examined use of U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) and non-VA services and predictors of service use among veterans and nonveterans who resided in a low-demand emergency shelter.

Methods  Equal numbers (N=110) of veterans and nonveterans recruited between January and June 2008 at a low-demand emergency shelter were interviewed about demographic characteristics, histories of military service and homelessness, general medical and mental functioning, current alcohol and drug problems and substance use, and use of medical, psychiatric, and substance abuse services. The Behavioral Model for Vulnerable Populations was used to identify need-based, enabling, and predisposing variables for analysis.

Results  Both groups reported high rates of arrest and incarceration, very low incomes, extensive histories of homelessness, and a similar need for services. However, significantly more veterans than nonveterans used psychiatric services, nonemergency medical services, and inpatient substance use services. Similar proportions of veterans and nonveterans used public non-VA health care services. Need-based variables appropriately predicted service use, but veterans and individuals with insurance were also more likely to access services.

Conclusions  The veterans and nonveterans residing in a low-demand shelter faced several barriers to escaping homelessness. Both groups made similar use of non-VA services, but veterans used more services overall because of their access to VA services. The predictive power of insurance indicated that veterans may experience barriers to care despite the availability of VA services. The presence of veterans in this low-demand shelter may represent evidence of barriers to veteran and other public housing services.

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Table 1Characteristics of veterans and nonveterans residing in a low-demand emergency shelter
Table Footer Note

a Public or private insurance, not including access to U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs services

Table Footer Note

b Possible scores on the physical and mental functioning scales of the Veterans Rand 12-Item Health Survey range from 0 to 100, with higher scores indicating better health.

Table Footer Note

*p<.05, **p<.001

Anchor for Jump
Table 2Use of services by veterans and nonveterans residing in a low-demand emergency shelter, by sector
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Table 3Predictors of use of services by veterans (N=110) and nonveterans (N=110) residing in a low-demand emergency sheltera
Table Footer Note

a The Nagelkerke R2 analysis indicates the proportion of the variance in use of services that was based on the predictive power of the independent variables, and the chi square analysis indicates statistical significance for the multiple regression models for each service (df=3).

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