Homeless people with learning disabilities face specific difficulties

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This Canadian paper looked at the situation of people with learning disabilities in Montreal who were homeless, to try to understand the nature of their situation, The paper draws on data from people who were known to a dedicated team in the city working with homeless people.

The researchers collected data from files of 68 participants. They collated descriptive statistics and carried out cross-tabulations by gender and residential status.

They found that people with learning disabilities who were homeless in the city had several related problems. Some, primarily women, experienced short periods of homelessness and their situations soon stabilised once they were identified by services and received some and follow-up. Others however were experiencing chronic homelessness. Interestingly, for many with a chronic problem, this ran alongside the number and severity of their other problems.

The researchers looked at their data in comparison to a previous study carried out in the city and and found a number of differences in the population of homeless people with learning disabilities when compared with the overall homeless population.

They suggest a number of prevention and intervention targets directed specifically at homeless people with learning disabilities and call for further epidemiological research, given that below-average intellectual functioning has been clearly identified as a risk factor for homelessness and is a factor in increasing vulnerability among street people.

Mercier, C & Picard, S, Intellectual disability and homelessness, in Journal of Intellectual Disability Research, 55: 441–449

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John Northfield

After qualifying as a social worker, John worked in community learning disability teams before getting involved in a number of long-stay hospital closure programmes, working to develop individual plans for people moving into their own homes. He worked for BILD, helping to develop the Quality Network and was editorial lead for the NHS electronic library learning disabilities specialist collection. This led him to found the Learning Disabilities Elf site with Andre Tomlin as a way of making the evidence accessible to practitioners in health and social care. Most recently he has worked as part of Mencap's national quality team and also been involved in a number of national website developments, including the General Medical Council's learning disabilities site.

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