American Journal of Community Psychology

, Volume 28, Issue 3, pp 343-366

First online:

Let's Ask the Homeless People Themselves: A Needs Assessment Based on a Probability Sample of Adults

  • Olga AcostaAffiliated withUniversity of Maryland
  • , Paul A. ToroAffiliated withWayne State University

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A probability sample of 301 homeless adults from Buffalo, NY, was followed over 6 months to document the utilization of a variety of community services, examine services desired, and identify factors associated with service utilization, preference, and satisfaction. The following needs were all rated as at least equally important as the need for affordable housing: safety, education, transportation, medical/dental treatment, and job training/placement (most of these needs were also rated as difficult to obtain). Needs for formal mental health and substance abuse services were rated as relatively unimportant and easy to obtain, and for those who actually used them, respondents were often dissatisfied with them. Of 16 predictor variables examined in multivariate analyses, several showed consistent relationships with subsequent service use, preference, and satisfaction. Younger adults, persons of color, those with dependent children, and persons having fewer social supports reported less service utilization, less satisfaction with services received, different perceived needs for particular services, and/or greater difficulty obtaining services.

homelessness needs assessment service utilization