Attrition: Why People Leave Supportive Housing

A Philadelphia study of why people leave supportive housing had two components; a retrospective analysis of administrative data on 943 mentally ill individuals who resided in permanent supportive housing, and a prospective study of people who left supportive housing compared to a matched group who stayed in their housing. Leaving supportive housing was common. Ten percent of people left within six months, and nearly 25 percent left within the first year. Nearly 40 percent of leavers left involuntarily due to violations of program rules such as drinking or using drugs, or because program staff considered them unable to be successful in the housing placement. The two-thirds classified as “non-positive” leavers left for a more service-intensive housing setting, an institutional setting such as a hospital or correctional facility, or a homeless shelter. The one-third deemed “positive leavers” left to live with family or friends or moved to a more independent setting without onsite treatment. The two leaver groups did not differ in background characteristics, psychiatric diagnosis, or level of functioning prior to entering housing, but after they entered permanent housing, the non-positive leavers were greater users of crisis services (Wong et al., 2006). A recent study of formerly homeless veterans who left supported housing prematurely compared to those who stayed found that premature leavers were more likely to have substance use disorders, criminal justice involvement, poor adherence with outpatient care, and frequent use of emergency departments. Half of premature leavers were either incarcerated or street homeless after leaving the housing program (Gabrielian et al., 2016).

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