Date of Award

1-1-2012

Document Type

Campus Access Thesis

Department

Psychology

Sub-Department

Clinical-Community Psychology

First Advisor

Bret Kloos

Abstract

Although homelessness is conventionally studied as an outcome, this paper argues that the process of becoming and remaining homeless is inherently traumatic, and therefore has the potential to affect the manifestation of mental illness. The experience of becoming and remaining homeless is purported to act as a specific and unique source of vulnerability. This study included 424 persons with serious mental illness (SMI) living in supported housing programs in South Carolina at the point of data collection. Three hierarchical regression analyses generally supported the hypotheses proposed in this paper as such: (1) Ever experiencing homelessness predicted higher scores of psychiatric distress and the log of total months spent homeless predicted higher scores of psychiatric distress above and beyond ever experiencing homelessness, (2) Ever experiencing homelessness predicted higher levels of alcohol use, and (3) The log of total months spent homeless predicted lower scores of recovery from SMI. Interestingly, these findings emphasize that homelessness is not necessarily a homogenous experience, but that there may be some common risk factors associated with the experience of being homeless.

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