Public Health and Primary CareBRIEF REPORT

Prevalence of Homelessness by Gender in an Emergency Department Population in Pennsylvania

Brett J. Feldman, MSPAS, PA-C; Alexandra M. Craen, MD; Joshua Enyart, DO; Timothy Batchelor, BS; Timothy J. Friel, MD; Stephen W. Dusza, DrPH; and Marna Rayl Greenberg, DO, MPH
Notes and Affiliations
Notes and Affiliations

Received: August 1, 2017

Accepted: August 29, 2017

Published: February 1, 2018

J Osteopath Med; 118(2): 85-91

Context: According to the US Department of Housing and Urban Development, nearly 1.5 million people spend at least 1 night in an emergency shelter or transitional housing each year, and more than 500,000 people are homeless on a given night in the United States. To our knowledge, limited data exist regarding the prevalence of homelessness in ED patients by gender (male, female, and transgender)

Objectives: To assess the prevalence of homelessness by gender in 3 EDs in Pennsylvania.

Methods: From May 2015 through February 2016, patients in 3 EDs were approached to take a 5-question homelessness screening survey. To participate, patients had to be aged at least 18 years, speak English, have capacity to complete the survey, be willing to participate, and not be critically ill. Frequency comparisons were made using χ2 analysis. Statistical significance was defined as P≤.05.

Results: A total of 4395 patients were included in the analysis. The mean (SD) age of the participants was 50.8 (20.5) years; 2557 (58.2%) were women and 3 (0.07%) were transgender. No difference in the rate of homelessness was observed between men and women, with 135 of 1835 men (7.4%) and 173 of 2557 women (6.8%) screening positive for homelessness (P=.472). Forty of 2557 women (1.6%) and 41 of 1835 men (2.2%) admitted they had slept outside or in an abandoned building, their car, an emergency shelter, or a hotel due to financial hardship in the past 60 days (P=.26). One transgender patient screened positive for homelessness. The mean age of participants who screened positive for homelessness was 40.9 (15.9) years.

Conclusions: No significant difference was observed in the rate of homelessness between men and women in this ED population, which defies the perception that this issue primarily affects men. Public health interventions aimed at homeless populations should consider that both men and women may be equally affected by homelessness.

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