Access Type

Open Access Dissertation

Date of Award

January 2019

Degree Type


Degree Name




First Advisor

Paul A. Toro


The current research study explores the composition and service need of the homeless community in Detroit, Michigan and its surrounding county, Wayne. The project aims to 1) examine differences in composition and social service characteristics across three decades and 2) access service utilization and unmet needs of the homeless population. The study’s central hypothesis is that demographic shifts in the homeless population indicate the need to make specific and substantive shifts in the distribution of the limited resources allocated to homelessness. Results demonstrated significant changes across the three time points, where the current sample of homeless people were older, spent more time homeless; had, over the past year, utilized homeless shelters at a greater rate and spent more time on the streets; had greater rates of health insurance; had earned more months of income from working; demonstrated greater lifetime rates of mood disorders and lower rates of schizophrenia spectrum disorders; reported more close family members and fewer close friends, but decreased perceived social support; had a worse relationship with family; less current mental health symptoms; better physical health, and fewer stressful life events. Additionally, results also provided evidence that the most important services, as identified by the homeless, are the most difficult to obtain, of which included, affordable housing and transportation. Implications for these results and localized recommendations are discussed.