HOMELESS FAMILIES
3:53 pm
Wed June 11, 2014

Trauma Strongly Linked to Homeless Mothers, Mental Health Conditions

Nearly all homeless mothers in Syracuse likely have one thing in common:  They’ve experienced trauma as a child or adult.  That’s the conclusion of a study by the National Center on Family Homelessness at the American Institute of Research.  It was funded by the Wilson Foundation based in Rochester.

The Wilson Foundation's Megan Bell addresses leaders of the various agencies that serve Syracuse's homeless.
Credit Scott Willis / WAER News

Wilson Foundation Executive Director Megan Bell explains what she calls the surprising finding that traumatic experiences among mothers are more strongly linked to homelessness than common predictors.

The study found more than 90% of homeless mothers experienced trauma at much higher rates than the general public.  

Credit Scott Willis / WAER News

  That means locally, as many as 450 women in the Salvation Army's Emergency Family Shelter last year likely brought a history of trauma.   

Director of the National Center on Family Homelessness Carmela DeCandia says trauma needs to be addressed as part of the continuum of housing and services provided to families.

 The Salvation Army of Syracuse is actually training staff to better understand the traumatic backgrounds some of their clients are likely to bring to their family shelter.  Director of Emergency and Child Welfare services Liddy Hintz  says they’re also working with a mental health services program at St. Joseph’s hospital.  

"There is a nurse practitioner the comes around the shelters to be able to meet with the women here at the shelter.  Instead of them having to go out and trying to find out and do a diagnosis,  or even connect with a provider if they haven't yet, she connects them to one.  She'll do an assessment,and a screening, talk to them, she has a social worker that's with her, and we make that connection right away."

Hintz says they see many mothers come in with domestic violence, substance abuse, or mental health histories.  The complete report can be seen here: http://www.air.org/sites/default/files/SHIFT_Service_and_Housing_Interventions_for_Families_in_Transition_final_report.pdf