Investigating the relationship between residential stability, physical and mental health, and quality of life in homeless and vulnerably housed individuals: A multi-site longitudinal study

An increasingly large number of individuals are facing homelessness and inadequate housing (i.e. living in a shelter, on the street or other places not intended for human habitation) in Canada. Annually, it is estimated that 150,000 to 300,000 individuals experience homelessness across the country. In addition, a much larger number of individuals are vulnerably housed (i.e. individuals with low or moderate income who spend more than 50 percent of their income on housing and are at risk of becoming homeless). Housing is a significant determinant of health. Compared to the general population, homeless and vulnerably housed individuals (HVHIs) have been found to be at a substantially increased risk for physical and mental illness, substance use, injuries, assaults and mortality. Furthermore, HVHIs are socially marginalized and frequently experience barriers to health care and social services. Dr. Anne Gadermann will be examining the dynamics of homelessness and housing vulnerability over time, risk and protective factors associated with onset and exiting of homelessness, and whether changes in housing status are associated with changes in physical and mental health status and quality of life. To conduct her research, Dr. Gadermann will be analyzing data from the Health and Housing in Transition study, a longitudinal multi-site cohort study of HVHIs. In this study, a representative sample of more than 1,100 HVHIs has been interviewed annually over a three-year period in Vancouver, Ottawa and Toronto. At each time point, the interview surveys assessed a wide number of variables, including demographic characteristics, housing history and quality of living conditions, physical and mental health status, family history, substance use problems, quality of life, social support, risk behaviours, health care and social service utilization, contact with the legal system, and life events. Furthermore, the interview data have been linked to health insurance databases to provide information on respondents’ health care utilization. Given the increase of homelessness and vulnerable housing in Canada, there is a greater need and demand for research evidence that can complement and expand existing policies, services and programs. The proposed research project is uniquely situated to provide such research evidence, and a special focus will be given to the dissemination of the findings in order to maximize the impact of the research findings on public policies, services and programs related to housing and health.