Do Adults Experiencing Mental Illness & Homelessness follow Distinct Stigma & Discrimination Group Trajectories based on their Mental Health-problems?

Research Paper Title

Trajectories and mental health-related predictors of perceived discrimination and stigma among homeless adults with mental illness.


Stigma and discrimination toward individuals experiencing homelessness and mental disorders remain pervasive across societies. However, there are few longitudinal studies of stigma and discrimination among homeless adults with mental illness.

This study aimed to identify the two-year group trajectories of stigma and discrimination and examine the predictive role of mental health characteristics among 414 homeless adults with mental illness participating in the extended follow-up phase of the Toronto At Home/Chez Soi (AH/CS) randomised trial site.


Mental health-related perceived stigma and discrimination were measured at baseline, one, and two years using validated scales.

Group-based-trajectory modelling was used to identify stigma and discrimination group trajectory memberships and the effect of the Housing First treatment (rent supplements and mental health support services) vs treatment as usual on these trajectories.

The associations between mental health-related characteristics and trajectory group memberships were also assessed using multinomial logistic regression.


Over two-years, three group trajectories of stigma and discrimination were identified.

For discrimination, participants followed a low, moderate, or increasingly high discrimination group trajectory, while for stigma, participants followed a low, moderate or high stigma group trajectory.

The Housing First treatment had no significant effect on discrimination or stigma trajectories groups.

For the discrimination trajectories, major depressive episode, mood disorder with psychotic features, alcohol abuse, suicidality, severity of mental health symptoms, and substance use severity in the previous year were predictors of moderate and increasingly high discrimination trajectories.

History of discrimination within healthcare setting was also positively associated with following a moderate or high discrimination trajectory.

For the stigma trajectories, substance dependence, high mental health symptoms severity, substance use severity, and discrimination experiences within healthcare settings were the main predictors for the moderate trajectory group; while substance dependence, suicidality, mental health symptom severity, substance use severity and discrimination experiences within health care setting were also positive predictors for the high stigma trajectory group.

Ethno-racial status modified the association between having a major depression episode, alcohol dependence, and the likelihood of being a member of the high stigma trajectory group.


This study showed that adults experiencing mental illness and homelessness followed distinct stigma and discrimination group trajectories based on their mental health-problems.

There is an urgent need to increase focus on strategies and policies to reduce stigma and discrimination in this population.


Mejia-Lancheros, C., Lachaud, J., O’Campo, P., Wiens, K., Nisenbaum, R., Wang, R., Hwang, S.W. & Stergiopoulos, V. (2020) Trajectories and mental health-related predictors of perceived discrimination and stigma among homeless adults with mental illness. PLoS One. 15(2), pp.e0229385. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0229385. eCollection 2020.

Homelessness & Substance Use Treatment: Is the Way in which Services & Treatment are Delivered more Important than the Type of Treatment Provided?

Research Paper Title

What Constitutes Effective Problematic Substance Use Treatment From the Perspective of People Who Are Homeless? A Systematic Review and Meta-Ethnography.


People experiencing homelessness have higher rates of problematic substance use but difficulty engaging with treatment services. There is limited evidence regarding how problematic substance use treatment should be delivered for these individuals.

Previous qualitative research has explored perceptions of effective treatment by people who are homeless, but these individual studies need to be synthesised to generate further practice-relevant insights from the perspective of this group.


Meta-ethnography was conducted to synthesise research reporting views on substance use treatment by people experiencing homelessness. Studies were identified through systematic searching of electronic databases (CINAHL; Criminal Justice Abstracts; Health Source; MEDLINE; PsycINFO; SocINDEX; Scopus; and Web of Science) and websites and were quality appraised. Original participant quotes and author interpretations were extracted and coded thematically.

Concepts identified were compared to determine similarities and differences between studies. Findings were translated (reciprocally and refutationally) across studies, enabling development of an original over-arching line-of-argument and conceptual model.


Twenty-three papers published since 2002 in three countries, involving 462 participants, were synthesised. Findings broadly related, through personal descriptions of, and views on, the particular intervention components considered effective to people experiencing homelessness. Participants of all types of interventions had a preference for harm reduction-oriented services.

Participants considered treatment effective when it provided a facilitative service environment; compassionate and non-judgemental support; time; choices; and opportunities to (re)learn how to live. Interventions that were of longer duration and offered stability to service users were valued, especially by women.

From the line-of-argument synthesis, a new model was developed highlighting critical components of effective substance use treatment from the service user’s perspective, including a service context of good relationships, with person-centred care and an understanding of the complexity of people’s lives.


This is the first meta-ethnography to examine the components of effective problematic substance use treatment from the perspective of those experiencing homelessness. Critical components of effective problematic substance use treatment are highlighted.

The way in which services and treatment are delivered is more important than the type of treatment provided. Substance use interventions should address these components, including prioritising good relationships between staff and those using services, person-centred approaches, and a genuine understanding of individuals’ complex lives.


Carver, H., Ring, N., Miler, J. & Parkes, T. (2020) What Constitutes Effective Problematic Substance Use Treatment From the Perspective of People Who Are Homeless? A Systematic Review and Meta-Ethnography. Harm Reduction Journal. 17(1), pp.10. doi: 10.1186/s12954-020-0356-9.