STUDY OBJECTIVE: The aim of the study was to determine the characteristics of the homeless population and their previously diagnosed psychiatric illnesses in a well defined inner city area. DESIGN: The study involved a one in 10 sequential sample collected over three years. SETTING: Hostels and day care centres for the homeless in Manchester. PARTICIPANTS: 420 homeless people were interviewed; 17 were excluded because of lack of rapport. RESULTS: The majority were single middle aged catholic males who left school early and were unemployed; 48.7% had a history of alcoholism, 38.5% of diagnosed psychiatric illness, and 22.6% of psychiatric inpatient treatment. Only 21% of those with psychiatric diagnoses were being treated or followed up at the time of study. There was a strong association between criminal behaviour and previous admission to a psychiatric unit. CONCLUSIONS: There is a high incidence of psychiatric illness among the homeless, particularly among those originating from the locality studied. They tend to be geographically stable and therefore accessible to the provision of facilities for continuing care.
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