Date of Paper


Type of Paper

Clinical research paper

Degree Name

Master of Social Work (M.S.W.)


Social Work

First Advisor

Lisa Kiesel, Ph.D., LICSW


Social Work


The purpose of this study was to examine workers and homeless adults’ perceptions of barriers that impact homeless adults’ utilization of shelters. The theory underlying this study was that shelter safety and capacity issues served as barriers to utilizing shelters. One focus group of workers and six interviews with homeless adults were conducted to learn about perceptions on shelter usage and barriers to shelter usage, shelter alternatives used by homeless adults, risks of not utilizing shelters, and barriers to exiting homelessness. This study found that homeless adults use shelters out of necessity and that safety and capacity are not barriers to use. A variety of factors were found to contribute to homeless adults’ decisions on whether to use shelters, including safety, shelter location and environment, shelter rules, and autonomy and dignity. Implications for practice and policy include a need for service providers to understand the tradeoff they are asking homeless adults to make in order to use shelters, the role dignity and autonomy play in service utilization, the need for increased advocacy efforts on behalf of the homeless population, examination of shelter policies and rules, more affordable housing, and increased access to affordable housing.

Included in

Social Work Commons