Women who experience housing instability are at high risk for violence and have disproportionately high rates of emergency department (ED) use. However, little has been done to characterize the violence they experience, or to understand how it may be related to ED use. We recruited homeless and unstably housed women from San Francisco shelters, free meal programs, and single room occupancy (SRO) hotels. We used generalized estimating equations to examine associations between violence and any ED use (i.e., an ED visit for any stated reason) every 6 months for 3 years. Among 300 participants, 44% were African-American, and the mean age was 48 years. The prevalence of violence experienced in the prior 6 months included psychological violence (87%), physical violence without a weapon (48%), physical violence with a weapon (18%), and sexual violence (18%). While most participants (85%) who experienced physical violence with a weapon or sexual violence in the prior 6 months had not visited an ED, these were the only two violence types significantly associated with ED use when all violence types were included in the same model (ORphysical/weapon = 1.83, 95% CI 1.02–3.28; ORsexual = 2.15, 95% CI 1.30–3.53). Only violence perpetrated by someone who was not a primary intimate partner was significantly associated with ED use when violence was categorized by perpetrator. The need to reduce violence in this population is urgent. In the context of health care delivery, policies to facilitate trauma-informed ED care and strategies that increase access to non-ED care, such as street-based medicine, could have substantial impact on the health of women who experience homelessness and housing instability.
- Emergency department
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Health(social science)
- Urban Studies
- Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health