Homeless Shelter Entry in the Year After an Emergency Department Visit: Results From a Linked Data Analysis

Abstract [from journal]

Study Objective: Housing instability is prevalent among emergency department (ED) patients and is known to adversely affect health. We aim to determine the incidence and timing of homeless shelter entry after an ED visit among patients who are not currently homeless.

Methods: We conducted a random-sample survey of ED patients at an urban public hospital from November 2016 to September 2017. Patients provided identifying information and gave informed consent for us to link their survey data with the New York City Department of Homeless Services shelter database. Shelter use was followed prospectively for 12 months after the baseline ED visit. We examined timing of shelter entry in the 12 months after the ED visit, excluding patients who were homeless at baseline.

Results: Of 1,929 unique study participants who were not currently homeless, 96 (5.0%) entered a shelter within 12 months of their baseline ED visit. Much of the shelter entry occurred in the first month after the ED visit, with continued yet slower rates of entry in subsequent months. Patients in our sample who entered a shelter were predominantly men and non-Hispanic black, and commonly had past shelter and frequent ED use.

Conclusion: In this single-center study, 5.0% of urban ED patients who were not currently homeless entered a homeless shelter within the year after their ED visit. Particularly if replicated elsewhere, this finding suggests that ED patients may benefit from efforts to identify housing instability and direct them to homelessness prevention programs.