Mailman School of Public Health receives grant for homelessness prevention studies

November 16, 2005 -- Researchers at Columbia University's Mailman School of Public Health have been awarded a $5 million grant from the National Institute of Mental Health to establish the Columbia Center for Homelessness Prevention Studies. A key objective of the Center is to develop interventions to prevent chronic homelessness among people with severe mental illness.

To achieve the Center's broad prevention agenda, faculty from an array of disciplines, including public health, psychiatry, social work, economics, and urban planning, will be brought together with service providers, consumers, and city and state policy makers to collaborate on the development of new and more effective approaches to enable people at risk of chronic homelessness to retain safe, adequate, and affordable housing.

"Homelessness is a social problem of enormous public health significance, " says Carol Caton, PhD, professor of clinical Sociomedical Sciences at the Mailman School, center director, principal investigator, and a research scientist at the New York State Psychiatric Institute. "It has been estimated that 25 percent of homeless adults aged 18 years and older suffer from severe mental illness." Successful efforts to create supportive housing for people with severe and persistent mental illness have enabled many to move from shelters and streets, according to Dr. Caton. However, a high rate of recidivism has been identified raising concern that people with mental illness may be vulnerable to chronic homelessness despite best efforts to date. Moreover, these initiatives have not forestalled the steady increase in the numbers of new people with mental illness falling into homelessness with each passing year. "As research on homelessness moves into its third decade, what we know about it and the causes of its widespread prevalence among different groups of America's most impoverished is overshadowed by our inability to prevent it," she observes.


Contact: Stephanie Berger
Columbia University's Mailman School of Public Health

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