Veteran homelessness is an issue gaining in visibility. Both Veterans and the homeless seem to be more susceptible to an array of physical health issues than the general population. However, very little is known about the health status of homeless Veterans in Canada. A more thorough knowledge of the physical health status of homeless Veterans could help better target services.
This study has two objectives: (1) to estimate the prevalence of physical health conditions in a Canadian sample of homeless Veterans with mental illness and (2) to compare the prevalence observed in Veterans with a matched sample of homeless non-Veterans.
Methods: The data come from a Canadian multi-site randomized trial, At Home/Chez Soi, that studies the effectiveness and efficiency of a Housing First program combined with a recovery-oriented approach to care. The present article is a cross-sectional analysis of baseline data. The participants are a volunteer sample of 99 homeless or precariously housed Veterans suffering from severe and persistent mental health problems and a matched sample of 99 non-Veterans. The data come from self-reported measures administered at baseline that describe chronic health conditions.
Results: Veterans presented with five physical health conditions on average, the more common being dental problems, head injuries, musculoskeletal injuries, and foot problems. Both the number of conditions and the prevalence of each condition were similar to that of a matched comparison group of non-Veterans.
Discussion: The number and severity of physical health conditions observed in our sample of homeless Veterans and non-Veterans suggest similar needs for physical health services in addition to housing services. Interventions targeting this population should therefore include a wide array of expertise and interdisciplinary collaboration to fit the various profiles of Veterans and non-Veterans in terms of housing, mental health, and physical health needs.