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Research also suggests that ethnic differences exist in mental health and substance abuse problems among homeless individuals. African American homeless individuals are to report a history of psychological difficulties and to report that these difficulties contributed to their homelessness. One study found that when looking at lifetime prevalence of substance abuse disorders, African American homeless men report both alcohol and drug abuse problems.

Studies have also found that African American homeless women exhibit higher rates of psychological disorders. Additionally, African American women report less use of both inpatient and outpatient care and are more likely to express that they desired but were unable to obtain psychological care.

A study of persons using public shelters in Philadelphia and New York City examined the census tracts that these shelter users came from. The most important predictor of a given census tract being the origin for persons seeking shelter was the proportion of African-Americans within the track. The second strongest predictor was the ration of female-headed households with children under the age of six.

Other studies found that African-Americans are more than twice as likely to become homeless as the general population. Over an observation period of three years in Philadelphia, Blacks were 15 times more likely than Whites to become homeless. In New York City, Blacks were 20 times more likely than White to become homeless. In fact, over the course of three years, about 6% of the African American population in Philadelphia has used the shelter system, compared to 8% of Blacks in New York City.

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