A London research initiative is looking at ways to ensure a hospital discharge doesn’t result in a lifetime of homelessness.

The results of a nine-month study by a team from the Lawson Health Research Institute were presented to the Community Symposium on Health Care and Homelessness on Tuesday morning.

The “No Fixed Address” (NFA) project identified people experiencing mental health issues who could end up homeless after a hospital stay, even if that time in hospital is short.

The strategy reaches out to, and offered supports to, at-risk patients during that crucial period when they’re being discharged from hospital.

Over nine months, 74 people experiencing medical issues accessed the NFA program. Of those, 54 per cent also faced mental challenges.

Researchers say all those in the study were in imminent danger of homelessness.

Supports provided as part the study allowed half to arrange housing before being discharged, preventing them from falling into homelessness.

Research lead, Dr. Cheryl Forchuk says, “We we’re able to help a lot of people, with 50 per cent successfully securing housing.”

That number is far lower that the over 90 per cent success rate No Fixed Address found for those being discharged from psychiatric care.

The difference, Forchuk says is the short window of opportunity to assess and assist patients before discharge from hospital.

The researchers say their work points to the need to have a housing support worker to provide transitional, wrap-around services.

That work would continue after the hospital stay, helping to access community programs.

The project is funded by the federal government’s Homelessness Partnering Strategy’s Innovative Solutions to Homelessness funding stream.

Forchuk is hoping to continue the research in order to improve success rates.