Community Mental Health Journal

, Volume 29, Issue 5, pp 423–431 | Cite as

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

  • Carol S. North
  • Elizabeth M. Smith


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.


Public Health Schizophrenia Young Child Substance Abuse Intervention Program 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.


  1. Bassuk, E.L. & Rosenberg, L. (1988). Why does family homelessness occur? A case-control study.American Journal of Public Health, 78(7): 783–788.Google Scholar
  2. Bassuk, E.L. & Rosenberg, L. (1990). Psychosocial characteristics of homeless children and children with homes.Pediatrics, 85(3): 257–261.Google Scholar
  3. Bassuk, E.L., Rubin, L. & Lauriat, A.S. (1986). Characteristics of sheltered homeless families.American Journal of Public Health, 76(9): 1097–1101.Google Scholar
  4. Breakey, W.R., Fischer, P.J., Kramer, M., Nestadt, G., Romanoski, A. J., Ross, A., Royall, R.M. & Stine, O.C. (1989). Health and mental health problems of homeless men and women in Baltimore.The Journal of the American Medical Association, 262(10): 1352–1357.Google Scholar
  5. Burt, M.R. & Cohen, B.E. (1989). Differences among homeless single women, women with children, and single men.Social. Problems, 36(5): 508–524.Google Scholar
  6. Crystal, S. (1984). Homeless men and women: The gender gap.Urban and Social Change Review, 17: 2–6.Google Scholar
  7. Crystal, S., Ladner, S. & Towber, R. (1986). Multiple impairment patterns in the mentally ill homeless.International Journal of Mental Health, 14(4): 61–73.Google Scholar
  8. Fischer, P.J. & Breakey, W.R. (1986). Homelessness and Mental Health: An Overview.International Journal of Mental Health, 14(4): 6–41.Google Scholar
  9. Fischer, P.J. & Breakey, W.R. (1991). The Epidemiology of alcohol, drug, and mental disorders among homeless persons.American Psychologist, 46(11): 1115–1128.Google Scholar
  10. Fischer, P.J., Shapiro, S., Breakey, W.R., Anthony, J.C., & Kramer, M. (1986). Mental health and social characteristics of the homeless: A survey of mission users.American Journal of Public Health, 76(5): 519–524.Google Scholar
  11. Hagen, J.L. (1987). Gender and homelessness.Social Work, July–August: 312–316.Google Scholar
  12. Maurin, J.T., Russell, L. & Memmott, R.J. (1989). An exploration of gender differences among the homeless.Research in Nursing and Health, 12: 315–321.Google Scholar
  13. Milburn, N. & D'Ercole, A. (1991). Homeless women: Moving toward a comprehensive model.American Psychologist, 46(11): 1161–1169.Google Scholar
  14. Robins, L.N., Helzer, J.E., Croughan, J., Williams, J.B.W. & Spitzer, R.L. (1981). NIMH Diagnostic Interview Schedule: Version III (May 1981).National Institute of Mental Health.Google Scholar
  15. Rosnow, M.J., Shaw, T. & Concord, C.S. (1986). Listening to the homeless: A study of homeless mentally ill persons in Milwaukee.Psychosocial Rehabilitation Journal, 9: 64–77.Google Scholar
  16. Smith, E.M., North, C.S. & Spitznagel, E.L. (1992). A systematic study of mental illness and treatment in 600 homeless men.Annals of Clinical Psychiatry 4: 111–120.Google Scholar
  17. Smith, E.M., North, C.S. & Spitznagel, E.L. (1993). Alcohol, drugs, and psychiatric comorbidity among homeless women: an epidemiologic study.Journal of Clinical Psychiatry, 54:82–87.Google Scholar
  18. Wright, J.D. & Weber, E. (1987).Homelessness and Health. New York McGraw-Hill.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Human Sciences Press, Inc 1993

Authors and Affiliations

  • Carol S. North
    • 1
  • Elizabeth M. Smith
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of PsychiatryWashington University School of MedicineSt. Louis

Personalised recommendations