OBJECTIVE: The purpose of this pilot study was to describe the health, housing and social service needs of the hidden homeless. It has been estimated that 80% of all people experiencing homelessness are hidden homeless, and because they remain 'hidden', resources are not allocated to provide this vulnerable population with support.
STUDY DESIGN: This was a descriptive, case series research design.
METHODS: Participants were recruited through agency referral and snowball sampling. Research ethics board (REB) approval was granted. Using descriptive statistics, information obtained from participant surveys was analysed using SPSS version 19.
RESULTS: Thirty-four participants met the inclusion criteria and ranged from 15 to 69 years. Fifty percent of the participants reported first being homeless between 14 and 18 years of age. Participants had several comorbidities, including mental health challenges, dental and respiratory problems, and sleep disorders. Participants described several challenges with accessing adequate nutrition, and finding adequate transportation and finances, and did not list housing as a priority need. The most frequent barriers to accessing health and social services identified by participants included their personal challenges with addiction, lack of transportation, and the perceived stigma they experienced when they sought help from health and social service agencies.
CONCLUSIONS: Findings from this study can contribute to the development of best practice guidelines and policies that specifically address the needs of this unique population. Improved allocation of resources and coordination of health and community services are cost-effective, and advance the overall health of the hidden homeless.