Universal Screening for Homelessness and Risk for Homelessness in the Veterans Health Administration

We examined data for all veterans who completed the Veterans Health Administration’s (VHA) national homelessness screening instrument between October 1, 2012, and January 10, 2013. Among veterans who were not engaged with the US Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) homeless system and presented for primary care services, the prevalence of recent housing instability or homelessness was 0.9% and homelessness risk was 1.2%. Future research will refine outreach strategies, targeting of prevention resources, and development of novel interventions.

Homelessness prevention is an essential component of the VA’s strategy to end homelessness among veterans by the end of 2015. In support of this strategy, the VA has unveiled Supportive Services for Veteran Families, providing more than $500 million to support local grantees’ provision of supportive services and financial assistance to low-income veterans living in or transitioning to permanent housing. Efficient and effective targeting of homelessness prevention resources is challenging for multiple administrative and social reasons. In an effort to improve the ability to identify veterans who are at risk for homelessness—or experiencing homelessness but not accessing services—the National Center on Homelessness Among Veterans developed the Homelessness Screening Clinical Reminder for use in patients’ electronic medical records to conduct a universal screen for housing instability and risk.

The objective of this national, health system-based screening instrument is to enhance the rapid identification of veterans and their families who have very recently become homeless or are at imminent risk of homelessness and ensure that they are referred for the appropriate assistance. This study is the first examination of national screening data for homelessness and homelessness risk within the VHA and provides an overview of the prevalence of homelessness risk among veterans seeking health-related services through VHA.

Publication Date: 
American Public Health Association
United States