Development of a homelessness risk screening tool for emergency department patients

Kelly M. Doran, Eileen Johns, Sara Zuiderveen, Marybeth Shinn, Kinsey Dinan, Maryanne Schretzman, Lillian Gelberg, Dennis Culhane, Donna Shelley, Tod Mijanovich

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Objective: To develop a screening tool to identify emergency department (ED) patients at risk of entering a homeless shelter, which could inform targeting of interventions to prevent future homelessness episodes. Data sources: Linked data from (1) ED patient baseline questionnaires and (2) citywide administrative homeless shelter database. Study design: Stakeholder-informed predictive modeling utilizing ED patient questionnaires linked with prospective shelter administrative data. The outcome was shelter entry documented in administrative data within 6 months following the baseline ED visit. Exposures were responses to questions on homelessness risk factors from baseline questionnaires. Data collection/extraction methods: Research assistants completed questionnaires with randomly sampled ED patients who were medically stable, not in police/prison custody, and spoke English or Spanish. Questionnaires were linked to administrative data using deterministic and probabilistic matching. Principal findings: Of 1993 ED patients who were not homeless at baseline, 5.6% entered a shelter in the next 6 months. A screening tool consisting of two measures of past shelter use and one of past criminal justice involvement had 83.0% sensitivity and 20.4% positive predictive value for future shelter entry. Conclusions: Our study demonstrates the potential of using cross-sector data to improve hospital initiatives to address patients' social needs.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)285-293
Number of pages9
JournalHealth Services Research
Issue number2
StatePublished - Apr 2022


  • delivery of health care
  • emergency service
  • homeless persons
  • hospital
  • housing
  • social problems

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Health Policy


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