VA Employment-Focused Research: Early Intervention for Vocational Problems May Help Prevent Homelessness

Submitted by the Bedford VA Medical Center

us-department-of-veterans-affairsA study at the Edith Nourse Rogers Memorial Veterans Hospital (Bedford VAMC) in Bedford, MA, has shown that early help for employment problems could be a good way to prevent homelessness in Veterans receiving mental health care, an area not studied before.

Participants had a vocational need but were not currently enrolled in vocational rehabilitation services. Of 155 Veterans enrolled in the study, 31 (20%) were homeless when their employment problem began. Of the 124 who were not homeless when their employment problem started, 99 (79.8%) became homeless within seven years, many within two years.

Results showed that homelessness was often part of a gradual decline over several years after a vocational problem began. Progressive losses included:

  • separation/divorce;
  • moves to less expensive housing;
  • temporary residence with family or friends; and, eventually,
  • time spent in shelters, jail/prison/institutions or on the street.

As VA works to eliminate homelessness, prevention becomes a more important strategy to pursue. Early vocational rehabilitation interventions may not only help prevent homelessness but might also help avoid other losses, such as disruption of families, that are so damaging to Veterans’ confidence and hope in recovery.

The study was funded by VA Rehabilitation Research & Development and involved the VISN 1 New England MIRECC, as well as the Dallas VA Medical Center and investigators at the Dartmouth Medical School.

For more information, contact Charles E. Drebing, PhD, at Charles.Drebing@va.gov.


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