Engaging Homeless Veterans in Primary Care

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VA Office of Research and Development




Homeless Persons


Behavioral: RN Brief Intervention
Behavioral: Social Worker Outreach

Study type


Funder types

Other U.S. Federal agency


IIR 07-184

Details and patient eligibility


The objectives of this study are to test an evidence-based model for improving primary and preventive care engagement among homeless Veterans not currently receiving care and to demonstrate the additive benefit of primary care-based treatment engagement by this population.

Full description

One out of three homeless men and nearly one quarter of all homeless adults are Veterans. This translates to almost 200,000 Veterans being homeless on any given night. The Department of Veteran Affairs (VA) is a major service provider to homeless persons and has developed several very successful and innovative programs that have been effective in securing housing, economic stability and needed services for these men and women. However, despite these efforts in many communities, Veterans are not accessing these services despite aggressive outreach and state-of-the art programming. The investigators are conducting a prospective randomized controlled trial to test the hypothesis that a personalized health assessment linked to community outreach is more likely to both engage the homeless Veteran in a primary care based chronic disease management model and to sustain that care and associated behavior changes necessary to exit homelessness. The key questions to be addressed in this study are: (1) Will a community-based health-oriented outreach increase health seeking behavior in the intervention group?; (2) can initial engagement be sustained in a continuity care model in this population?; (3) will this intervention facilitate changes/improvements in health seeking behavior that include participation in substance abuse treatment care, compliance with mental health care, and enrollment in VA-based employment/financial support programs?; and (4) can this intervention impact chronic disease management of key cardiovascular risk indicators that disproportionately affect homeless persons?; and (5) do any observed changes correlate with serial behavioral measures and qualitative assessments?

The investigators' working hypothesis is that a targeted outreach to homeless persons that capitalizes on either established or newly realized physical health concerns to affect both health seeking behavior and sustained behavior change. It is grounded in two complementary behavioral models: the Behavioral Model for Vulnerable Populations and the body of research describing intrinsic versus extrinsic motivators for sustained behavior change.

Two hundred and eighty homeless Veterans will be randomized to receive either a personalized health assessment based outreach or usual care (social work/housing focused) outreach. Baseline assessments will include demographics, medical, mental health and substance use co-morbidities, pre-intervention health seeking behavior, readiness for behavior change (URICA), motivation for health care. Serial assessments at months 1, and 6 will assess evolving readiness and motivation as well as changes in their homeless status (sheltering, employment/income, etc.) Actual utilization of services will be assessed using the CPRS electronic medical records.


221 patients




18+ years old


Accepts Healthy Volunteers

Inclusion criteria

  • VA eligible
  • currently homeless

Exclusion criteria

  • cognitively impaired
  • not planning on staying in area for next 6 months
  • currently enrolled in VA primary care

Trial design

Primary purpose

Health Services Research



Interventional model

Parallel Assignment


None (Open label)

221 participants in 2 patient groups, including a placebo group

Personal Health Assessment/RN Brief Intervention
Experimental group
RN-based medical outreach, administration of a personal health assessment and brief intervention
Behavioral: RN Brief Intervention
Social Work-Administered Outreach
Placebo Comparator group
Social work based outreach (usual care)
Behavioral: Social Worker Outreach

Trial contacts and locations



Data sourced from

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