Permanent supportive housing (PSH) is the leading intervention to end chronic homelessness. Little is known, however, about gender differences, including potential disparities in physical and mental health and social support, that might inform services available through PSH.
This study included 421 homeless adults, at least 39 years old, English- or Spanish-speaking, who were moving into PSH through 26 different agencies in the Los Angeles area participated.
Compared with men entering PSH, homeless women (28% of the sample) were younger (p < .01), less likely to have achieved at least a high school education (p < .05), and had lower incomes (p < .01). Women had more chronic physical health conditions (p < .01), were more likely to have any chronic mental health condition (odds ratio, 2.5; p < .01), and had more chronic mental health conditions than men (p < .01). Women had more relatives in their social networks (Coefficient, 0.79, p < .01) and more relatives who provided support (coefficient, 0.38; p < .05), but also more relatives with whom they had conflict (coefficient, 0.19; p < .01). Additionally, women were less likely to have caseworkers (coefficient, −0.59; p < .001) or physical and mental health care providers in their networks (coefficient, −0.23 [p < .01]; coefficient, −0.37 [p < .001], respectively). However, after correcting for multiple testing, three outcomes lost significance: number of chronic physical health conditions, number of relatives who provided any support, and number of relatives with whom there was conflict.
There is evidence of gender differences in mental health and social support among homeless adults moving into PSH. PSH cannot be a one-size-fits-all approach. Supportive services within housing should be tailored based on gender and other individual needs.