University of Oregon Undertaking Impacts Of Homelessness On Health Study

EUGENE, Ore. — A team of researchers at the University of Oregon is investigating if, why, and how homelessness affects the health of houseless people.

Led by associate professor of medical anthropology at the University- Lesley ‘Jo’ Weaver, the team will survey the unhoused population in the city of Eugene to get insight and understanding of the effects of housing insecurity on a person’s health. When the research is complete, Weaver hopes that Eugene will be in a position to use the data as a base to understand how to have the greatest positive impact on the lives of people who are homeless.

After moving to Eugene from Tuscaloosa, Alabama, the unhoused crisis caught the attention of Weaver when she arrived. Focusing on people who live on the streets of Eugene, the study will also look at people who are housed in the numerous homeless shelters in the city as well as people who access other homeless resources.

Weaver said that they are undertaking a very complex, multi-level analysis that investigates the issue from the perspectives of the individual and the community, and look at it from a policy level. They aim to work out which features can predict health in people who are currently experiencing homelessness.

The University of Oregon team will examine and analyze how the people who are currently experiencing housing insecurity manage their health, and also explore the ways that any related stress impacts their overall wellbeing. The study kicked off in November, and Weaver has already discovered some unexpected occurrences. Weaver said that one of these is how the people she has spoken to shared how members of the homeless community help each other to stay healthy. She believes this aspect will be noticeable in the final paper.

With a shortage of over 16,000 housing units in Eugene, Weaver thinks new housing will still take a long time to be made available. While they are working on their study, she hopes that others are working on delivering the units that Eugene needs. Looking into the things that people are already doing will help to get better support that could then mitigate some of the negative health impacts of homelessness. They are also investigating the points of intervention that could introduce new measures that are helpful as well as acceptable to people. Some thinking out of the box may be required.

Weaver anticipates that the study will help provide the city with additional tools that will put them in a position to best understand how to make meaningful change.


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