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Drinking among Homeless and Marginally Housed Adults in New York State:

John W. Welte, Grace M. Barnes

The drinking patterns of 412 homeless and marginally housed adults in New York State are described, and compared with 5,952 domiciled adults. The homeless and marginally housed persons interviewed were randomly selected from a representative group of public shelters and low-price hotels in New York City and upstate New York. They showed transience in their sleeping arrangements, and in recent months many had slept with friends or in public places. They are disproportionately male (71%), aged 18-34 (61%) and black or Hispanic (74%). Many of the homeless and marginally housed are abstainers (40%, as opposed to 26% in the state as a whole), but a startling 13% drink more than 20 drinks a day, as opposed to less than 1% in the state as a whole. They also reported high rates of dependence signs such as blackouts or loss of control. Among the homeless and marginally housed, heavy drinking is higher among men than women, and higher among blacks than whites or Hispanics. For homeless and marginally housed men, those with the poorest sleeping arrangements (e.g., slept in public places) have higher rates of heavy drinking. A causal model supports the hypothesis that, for a minority of the homeless, drinking is a contributory cause of their homelessness. (J. Stud. Alcohol 53: 303-315, 1992)