Brief Report  |   February 2018
Prevalence of Homelessness by Gender in an Emergency Department Population in Pennsylvania
Author Notes
  • From the University of South Florida Morsani College of Medicine in Tampa (Mr Feldman, Dr Craen, Dr Enyart, Mr Batchelor, Dr Friel, Dr Dusza, and Dr Greenberg) and the Departments of Community Health (Mr Feldman), Emergency Medicine (Drs Craen, Enyart, Dusza, and Dr Greenberg and Mr Batchelor), and Medicine (Dr Friel) at the Lehigh Valley Hospital in Allentown, Pennsylvania. An abstract of this study was presented as a poster at the 2016 ACOEP Scientific Assembly on November 2, 2016, in San Francisco, California, and received second place in the poster competition at the Pennsylvania College of Emergency Physicians Scientific Assembly on April 6, 2017. It was also presented as a poster at the Congress of Women's Health on April 28, 2017, in Washington, DC. 
  • Financial Disclosures: None reported. 
  • Support: This study was funded in part by an unrestricted Philadelphia College of Osteopathic Medicine MEDNet educational grant. 
  •  *Address correspondence to Marna Rayl Greenberg, DO, MPH, 1909 Earls Ct, Allentown, PA 18103-6980. Email: mrgdo@ptd.net
     
Article Information
Emergency Medicine
Brief Report   |   February 2018
Prevalence of Homelessness by Gender in an Emergency Department Population in Pennsylvania
The Journal of the American Osteopathic Association, February 2018, Vol. 118, 85-91. doi:10.7556/jaoa.2018.023
The Journal of the American Osteopathic Association, February 2018, Vol. 118, 85-91. doi:10.7556/jaoa.2018.023
Abstract

Context: According to the US Department of Housing and Urban Development, nearly 1.5 million people spend at least 1 night in an emergency shelter or transitional housing each year, and more than 500,000 people are homeless on a given night in the United States. To our knowledge, limited data exist regarding the prevalence of homelessness in ED patients by gender (male, female, and transgender)

Objective: To assess the prevalence of homelessness by gender in 3 EDs in Pennsylvania.

Methods: From May 2015 through February 2016, patients in 3 EDs were approached to take a 5-question homelessness screening survey. To participate, patients had to be aged at least 18 years, speak English, have capacity to complete the survey, be willing to participate, and not be critically ill. Frequency comparisons were made using χ2 analysis. Statistical significance was defined as P≤.05.

Results: A total of 4395 patients were included in the analysis. The mean (SD) age of the participants was 50.8 (20.5) years; 2557 (58.2%) were women and 3 (0.07%) were transgender. No difference in the rate of homelessness was observed between men and women, with 135 of 1835 men (7.4%) and 173 of 2557 women (6.8%) screening positive for homelessness (P=.472). Forty of 2557 women (1.6%) and 41 of 1835 men (2.2%) admitted they had slept outside or in an abandoned building, their car, an emergency shelter, or a hotel due to financial hardship in the past 60 days (P=.26). One transgender patient screened positive for homelessness. The mean age of participants who screened positive for homelessness was 40.9 (15.9) years.

Conclusion: No significant difference was observed in the rate of homelessness between men and women in this ED population, which defies the perception that this issue primarily affects men. Public health interventions aimed at homeless populations should consider that both men and women may be equally affected by homelessness.

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