Individuals experiencing homelessness are particularly vulnerable to food insecurity. The At Home/Chez Soi study provides a unique opportunity to first examine baseline levels of food security among homeless individuals with mental illness and second to evaluate the effect of a Housing First (HF) intervention on food security in this population.
At Home/Chez Soi was a 2-year randomized controlled trial comparing the effectiveness of HF compared with usual care among homeless adults with mental illness, stratified by level of need for mental health services (high or moderate). Logistic regressions tested baseline associations between food security (US Food Security Survey Module), study site, sociodemographic variables, duration of homelessness, alcohol/substance use, physical health and service utilization. Negative binomial regression determined the impact of the HF intervention on achieving levels of high or marginal food security over an 18-month follow-up period (6 to 24 months).
Approximately 41 % of the sample reported high or marginal food security at baseline, but this figure varied with gender, age, mental health issues and substance use problems. High need participants who received HF were more likely to achieve marginal or high food security than those receiving usual care, but only at the Toronto and Moncton sites. The large multi-site study demonstrated low levels of food security among homeless experiencing mental illness. HF showed promise for improving food security among participants with high levels of need for mental health services, with notable site differences.