Abstract

Many factors contribute to homelessness, including extreme poverty, extended periods of unemployment, shortages of low-income housing, deinstitutionalization, and substance abuse. As a result, the needs of people who are homeless are broad and complex. This needs assessment used literature reviews, review of local documents and reports, participant observation, focus groups, and reflective journals to guide the development of an occupational performance skills program at one homeless shelter in south Florida. Through these methods, the role of occupational therapy was extended beyond direct service to include program and resource development, staff education, advocacy, and staff–resident mediation. The findings of the needs assessment and the actions taken as a result of this work point to the huge potential for occupational therapists and students to work together with staff and residents of homeless shelters.

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