Background. While there is considerable evidence of a high prevalence of psychiatric disorder among homeless youth, much less is known about its long-term course or the impact it may have on accommodation outcomes.
Method. A random sample of 161 homeless people 16–21 years of age were recruited from consecutive attendees at two of London's largest facilities for homeless young people. These young people were traced and re-interviewed a year later to examine accommodation, occupation and health outcomes.
Results. A total of 107 (67%) people were successfully re-interviewed. Psychiatric disorder was identified in 55% at follow up. Two thirds of those with a psychiatric disorder at index interview remained symptomatic at follow-up. Persistence of psychiatric disorder was associated with adverse childhood experiences and rough sleeping. Satisfactory accommodation outcomes were achieved by 45 subjects (42%). Better accommodation outcomes were associated with three variables measured at the index assessment: ethnic minority status; educational achievement; and, the presence of accommodation plans negotiated through a resettlement agency. While psychiatric disorder at index interview was not associated with accommodation outcome, persistent substance use in the follow-up year was associated with poor accommodation outcome. Over half of the young people had been involved in petty crime and just under a third had been convicted for more serious criminal activity. Offending and antisocial behaviour in the follow-up year were related to a history of conduct disorder, persistent substance abuse and poor accommodation outcomes.
Conclusions. Young homeless people are characterized by multiple social and medical needs. Successful resettlement of this population may depend upon integrated services that address problems of persisting substance use and mental illness as well as the immediate housing need.
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