Homelessness among patients in a southeastern safety net emergency department

South Med J

Objectives: Emergency departments (EDs) are important providers for homeless individuals, providing vital health care and meeting the subsistence needs of many homeless patients (eg, food, water, shelter). Studies that have examined the proportion of patients in the ED setting who experience homelessness have been conducted primarily in the northeastern United States. We hypothesized that findings from prior studies, conducted primarily in the Northeast, would not generalize to other regions of the United States. We conducted a direct patient survey to describe the proportion and demographics of ED patients who have experienced homelessness within the past 12 months in an urban safety net hospital in Atlanta, Georgia. Methods: A cross-sectional survey of a convenience sample of patients presenting to the ED from September to December 2016. A team of trained research assistants administered a structured survey instrument to patients who were 18 years old, English speakers, not incarcerated, and able to provide informed consent. Questions were based on the US Department of Health and Human Services definition of homelessness. Results: A total of 923 ED patients (55.1% male; median age 44 years) completed the survey. Of the ED patients surveyed, 51.5% reported some measure of homelessness in the past 12 months: lived with others but did not pay rent (n = 279, 30.2%), skipped mortgage or rent payment (n = 111, 12%), experienced eviction (n = 74, 8%), lived in a hotel or motel (n = 196, 21.2%), lived in a place not meant for human habitation (n = 76, 8.2%), slept in a shelter (n = 131, 14.2%), and slept on the street (n = 115, 12.5%). Men (odds ratio [OR] 1.56, 95% confidence interval [CI] 1.17-2.09), patients who completed some school (OR 2.85, 95% CI 1.72-4.71), and patients who completed high school (OR 2.32, 95% CI 1.53-3.52) were more likely to have experienced homelessness in the 12 months preceding their ED visit. Conclusions: The rate of patients experiencing homelessness at our hospital is substantially greater than those reported in prior surveys of ED patients. More research is needed on homelessness and its implications for ED patients.

Jackson TS, Moran TP, Lin J, Ackerman J, Salhi BA. Homelessness among patients in a southeastern safety net emergency department. South Med J. 2019;112(9):476-482.PMID: 31485585. DOI: 10.14423/SMJ.0000000000001016.

Publication Year: 
Resource Type: 
Peer Reviewed Research
Study Design: 
Other Study Design
Social Determinant of Health: 
Housing Stability
Social Needs/ SDH
Screening Research: