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Homeless veterans in supported housing: exploring the impact of criminal history.

Tsai J, Rosenheck RA. Homeless veterans in supported housing: exploring the impact of criminal history. Psychological Services. 2013 Nov 1; 10(4):452-8.

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This article described the criminal histories of a multisite sample of homeless veterans enrolled in the Housing and Urban Development-Veterans Affairs Supportive Housing (HUD-VASH) program, presented a method of categorizing them, and compared outcomes among veterans with different criminal histories. A national dataset on a total of 1,160 participants over a 1-year period was analyzed. Cluster analyses were conducted on the criminal histories of participants and groups of participants were compared on program entry characteristics and outcomes. Before entry into the HUD-VASH program, 79% of participants had been charged with at least one criminal charge. The most common criminal charges were disorderly conduct, vagrancy, and public intoxication. At program entry, participants with more extensive criminal histories showed poorer status in employment, housing, substance abuse, and quality of life compared with participants with minor or no criminal histories. However, once enrolled in supported housing, there were no group differences in outcomes and all groups showed substantial improvements in housing. These findings suggest that most homeless veterans have had involvement in the criminal justice system, albeit mostly to a small extent. Supported housing programs, like HUD-VASH, that serve homeless veterans regardless of their criminal history should be supported.

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