This study draws on baseline data from the At Home/Chez Soi demonstration project to examine the association between parenting status and mental health among homeless women and whether the association varies by duration of homelessness. Setting: Structured interviews were conducted with participants in five cities across Canada including Moncton, Montreal, Toronto, Vancouver and Winnipeg.
Eligibility criteria included those with legal adult status, with a mental illness, and who lacked a regular, fixed shelter. All 713 women who participated in the larger project were selected for inclusion in this analysis.
The mental health conditions of interest include depression, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), alcohol dependence and substance dependence.
The relationship between parenting status and depression, as well as PTSD, varied by duration of homelessness. Among women who had been homeless for less than 2 years, no relationship was found between parenting status and depression, or PTSD. However, among women who had been homeless for 2 or more years, the odds of depression was twice as high among parenting women compared with others (aOR=2.05, p≤0.05). A similar relationship was found between parenting status and PTSD (aOR=2.03, p≤0.05). The odds of substance dependence was found to be 2.62 times greater among parenting women compared with others and this relationship did not vary by duration of homelessness (aOR=2.62; 95% CI 1.86 to 3.69). No relationship was found between parenting and alcohol dependence.
Overall, the findings from this study suggest that there is a relationship between long-term homelessness and mothers’ risk of poor mental health. Given the multiple demands mothers face, a failure to recognise their unique needs is likely to contribute to intergenerational legacies of homelessness and mental health problems