Rehousing Is Not The Simple Answer For Homeless Families

March 20, 1998

(Mental health problems of homeless children and families: longitudinal study)

At any one time, at least 60,000 families (including between 140,000 and 170,000 children) are defined as homeless, say Vostanis et al in their paper in this week's BMJ investigating the mental health needs of homeless children and their families. The authors examined the psychosocial outcome of homeless families one year after they had been rehoused. They found that in that year families had experienced domestic violence, violence from neighbours, abuse and social and educational disruption. They also discovered that mental health problems in children and mothers remained significantly higher than the general population and a significant proportion of previously homeless families remained residentially and socially unstable.

Vostanis et al conclude that homelesss families have a high level of complex needs that cannot be met by conventional health services and arrangements. They believe that local strategies for rapid rehousing into permanent accommodation, effective social support and health care for parents and children as well as protection from violence and intimidation should be developed and implemented.


Dr Panos Vostanis, Senior Lecturer in Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, Department of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, University of Birmingham, Parkview Clinic, Mosely, Birmingham


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