• What do individuals experiencing homelessness want for their care?: A needs assessment survey

      Zeien, Justin; The University of Arizona College of Medicine - Phoenix; Hartmark-Hill, Jennifer (The University of Arizona., 2021)
      The homeless population is growing across the United States, particularly in urban areas. Homelessness has a detrimental impact on health and quality of life, especially among the unsheltered homeless population. Oftentimes, there is a disconnect between existing community services and actual needs of individuals experiencing homelessness. The purpose of this study was to identify prioritized needs in an urban unsheltered homeless population and measure associations with self-reported health. We conducted a needs assessment from April-June 2018 of 144 unsheltered homeless individuals in metro Phoenix, Arizona. The 16-question survey investigated perceptions of priority needs, sources of medical care, health literacy, and health status. Survey results were analyzed using Wilcoxon Rank Sum Test, Chi-squared analysis, and multivariable logistic regression. Most respondents (91.6%) identified food as a top need. The majority (64.1%) utilized emergency departments (EDs) as their primary source of care, and 40.1% reported suboptimal health. Suboptimal health was more likely to be reported in those who expressed transportation (OR 3.03, 95% CI: 1.30-7.07) or medical care (OR 2.47, 95% CI: 0.99-6.14) as a top priority need. Health illiteracy (OR 3.68, 95% CI: 0.76-17.9) was associated with suboptimal health, as was obtaining care at an ED (OR 2.05, 95% CI: 0.81-5.25). The data demonstrate that food security was the top priority need of this urban unsheltered population. Interventions improving accessibility to transportation, high-quality medical care, and health education should be implemented to improve the health of this population. Such interventions may also decrease care sought in ED settings. These conclusions are likely generalizable to other unsheltered homeless populations in large urban cities; however, regional and cultural differences exist. Our needs assessment may serve as a template for future needs assessments of other urban unsheltered homeless populations.