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Social support and housing transitions among homeless adults with serious mental illness and substance use disorders.

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Research suggests that social supports are associated with housing retention among adults who have experienced homelessness. Yet, we know very little about the social support context in consumers find and retain housing. We examined the ways and identified the junctures in which consumers' skills and deficits in accessing and mobilizing social supports influenced their longitudinal housing status.


We performed semi-structured qualitative interviews with VA Greater Los Angeles consumers (n = 19) with serious mental illness, substance use disorders, and a history of homelessness; interviews explored associations between longitudinal housing status (categorized as: stable, independent housing; sheltered housing, continually engaged in structured housing programs; and unstable housing) and social supports. We compared data from consumers in these 3 mutually exclusive categories.


All participants described social support as important for finding and maintaining housing. However, participants used formal (provider/case managers) and informal (family/friends) supports in different ways. Participants in stable housing relied on formal and informal supports to obtain/maintain housing. Participants in sheltered housing primarily used formal supports, for example, case management staff. Unstably housed participants used formal and informal supports, but some of these relationships were superficial or of negative valence. Interpersonal problems were prevalent across longitudinal housing status categories.

Conclusions and implications for practice

Social context, including patterns of formal and informal support, was associated with participants' longitudinal housing status. Within interventions to end homelessness, these findings suggest the value of future research to identify, tailor, and implement practices that can help consumers improve their social resources. (PsycINFO Database Record

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