, Volume 29, Issue 5, pp 423-431

A comparison of homeless men and women: Different populations, different needs

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Homeless women are very different from homeless men, but few studies have reported data separately on them or compared them directly with men. This report on a study of 600 homeless men and 300 homeless women in St. Louis presents comparison data on these populations. The pivotal difference between homeless men and women was that unlike men, most women had young children in their custody. The women were also younger than men, more likely to be members of a minority group, and more often dependent on welfare. They had been homeless for a shorter period and spent less time in unsheltered locations. Compared to men, they had less frequent histories of substance abuse, incarceration, and felony conviction. Solitary women (without children with them), compared to women with children in their custody, were more likely to be white, had been homeless longer, and more often had a history of alcoholism or schizophrenia. On most variables, values for solitary women lay some-where between those for men and for women with children. The population of homeless women is therefore heterogeneous, with at least two subgroups. These groups are likely to benefit from intervention programs that are designed to address their specific problems and needs, which are not necessarily the same as those of homeless men.

This research was supported by National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism Grant AA07549. The authors acknowledge Ms. Susan Bradford for assistance in data management and Ms. Shirley Mazenko for secretarial assistance.