Lori Thomas

Importance of Community-Based Research
Associate Professor of Social Work

Conventional approaches to homelessness focus first on challenges such as job status, substance abuse or mental illness to create a pathway toward getting the individual into permanent housing.

“It was very impressive to see the emergency room usage go down so substantially, to see jail usage go down so substantially,” says Thomas. She collected data at Moore Place, Urban Ministry Center’s 85-unit apartment complex for individuals who have extensive histories of homelessness. Residents receive a place to live plus support from a team of therapists, social workers, a nurse and a psychologist.

She found that after two years, 81 percent of participants remained in permanent housing. Their emergency room visits dropped by 81 percent, days in the hospital fell 62 percent, and nights in prison decreased 89 percent. “This small percentage of the overall population had been using a disproportionate amount of resources,” she says. “When these people aren’t housed, they end up using a whole lot of resources and still remain inadequately served, and they end up dying on the street.”