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Risk factors for homelessness and housing instability in the first episode of mental illness: Initial findings from the AMONT study.

AIM: People living with mental illness are more likely than the general population to experience adverse housing outcomes, including homelessness. The aim of the current study is to examine residential status when participants have their first contact with mental health services, and the correlates of residential status at that moment.

METHODS: First-time mental health service users were recruited from seven clinical sites across Québec. Data on residential status at entry in the project, as well as demographic, clinical and social variables, were collected using self-report and interviewer-rated questionnaires. Participants were classified as 'Homeless', 'At risk of homelessness' and 'Stably Housed', and correlates of residential status were identified through multivariate logistic regression and unbiased recursive partitioning.

RESULTS: Among the 478 participants, 206 (43.1%) were in stable housing, 171 (35.8%) were at risk of homelessness and 101 (21.1%) were classified as homeless. Placement in a youth protection facility was strongly associated with adverse housing outcomes, while having a high school diploma and more social support were associated with more stable housing situations.

CONCLUSIONS: First-time mental health service users are likely to experience a range of adverse housing situations, indicating the potential for clinical sites to implement homelessness primary prevention strategies. Factors related to family, foster care and schooling seem to be particularly salient in understanding risk of homelessness in first-time mental health service users, calling for intersectoral action to prevent adverse psychosocial outcomes in this population.

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