The New York-New York Housing Initiative and Use of Public Shelters by Persons with Severe Mental Illness

OBJECTIVE: The study examined changes in the use of shelters in New York City by mentally ill persons with a history of homelessness who received housing placements through the New York-New York (NY/NY) housing initiative between 1990 and 1999 and the impact of the initiative on the overall demand for shelter beds in the city. METHODS: Computerized service records on housing, shelter use, and health care services were linked to create an integrated data set for 3,167 persons who received NY/NY housing placements, which provided mental health services, and for a matched control group of persons with mental illness who used shelters but did not receive housing placements. Regression analyses were used to assess the relationships between shelter use and receipt of a placement. Differences in postplacement shelter use between NY/NY housing recipients and the matched control group were then examined at an individual level and a population level. RESULTS: Heavy users of the shelter system were more likely to be placed in NY/NY housing. In the two-year postplacement period, persons who received a NY/NY housing placement used, on average, 128.2 fewer shelter days than those in the control group. In 1996, the NY/NY housing initiative reduced the average nightly census in New York City shelters by an estimated 4.6 percent. CONCLUSIONS: Providing housing combined with mental health services is an effective approach to reducing shelter use among mentally ill persons who have a history of homelessness. (Authors)

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Psychiatric Services