CSM Study 1: Survey of Unsheltered Homeless

Published: 21 November 2018| Version 1 | DOI: 10.17632/j6dcx895kn.1
Frederick Gibson


Survey of Unsheltered Homeless in Chicago Study Design: A brief, eight question survey was implemented looking at various characteristics of unsheltered homeless populations in Chicago to provide more focused healthcare interventions. Participants: n=48; 48 unsheltered homeless (spending two or more nights in a place not ordinarily meant for human habitation) individuals in Chicago. Measures: Quantitative: Nights spent in a hospital in the past three months; Qualitative: male/female, knowledge of sexual assault, knowledge of overdose treatment, use of primary care physician (PCP), nonsterile IV needle use. Findings: 67% of those surveyed reported visiting the emergency department at least once within the past three months. A total of 145 nights were spent in a hospital in the past three months with a mean length of 4.53 nights. 29% of those surveyed reported visiting a PCP. Those reporting knowledge of nonsterile IV needle use in the past 3 months had significantly higher odds of visiting the emergency department (OR=4.33, CI=1.03-18.18) Those reporting having a primary care physician (OR=2.27, CI=0.53-9.70), knowledge of overdose treatment (OR=4.20 CI=0.98-18.73), and knowledge of sexual assault (OR=1.96, CI=0.36-10.75) were more likely to report using the emergency department in the past 3 months, as well. Participants identifying as male were less likely to report visiting the emergency department in the past 3 months (OR=0.29, CI=0.03-2.63). Female participants acknowledged sexual assault (p=0.014) and overdose treatment (p=0.001) significantly more than their male counterparts. Conclusions: Those experiencing unsheltered homelessness in Chicago heavily utilize the emergency department and healthcare system. The low reporting of overdose treatment and the high female reporting of sexual assault and nonsterile IV needle use suggests an opportunity for education and intervention in the Chicago unsheltered homeless populations. Evidence indicates that coordinated treatment programs can improve healthcare outcomes in the homeless population, however, to lower healthcare costs associated with this population further research and definitive healthcare interventions needs to be made available.


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A brief, eight question survey was developed accounting for various diagnostic parameters of those experiencing unsheltered homelessness in Chicago. Four research personnel were trained on surveying and conducted brief, private interviews with individuals 18 years of age or older experiencing unsheltered homelessness during medical outreach missions through CSM. Surveying occurred in the evenings from February to May of 2018. Surveys were conducted during CSM outreach missions targeting individuals experiencing unsheltered homelessness where medical care, education, food, and water were provided. Participation was voluntary with no effect regarding other resources offered by CSM (healthcare, food, etc.). Each research participant was confirmed to be over 18 years of age and experiencing unsheltered homelessness (i.e. primary nighttime residence was a public or private place not designated for, or ordinarily used as, a regular sleeping accommodation) for at least the past two nights.


University of Illinois at Chicago College of Medicine


Medicine, Economics, Urban Community, Homelessness, Housing