Department of Mental Health Transitional Shelter Review:

For homeless persons with mental health challenges, can a state department of mental health transitional shelter mitigate common housing consequences of structural racism?

Approximately 40% of Black individuals are overrepresented in homeless populations. However, few studies have assessed whether race and other factors are associated with length of homelessness among persons with mental health challenges. Once we have a better understanding of factors which contribute to entry into and exit out of homelessness and duration of homelessness, we can identify needs of homeless individuals and improve systems of care for these individuals accordingly.


Schnitzer K, Cather C, Potter K, Kaba H, Marsden J, Hoffman D, Shtasel D. For Homeless persons with serious mental illness, can a state transitional shelter promote racial equity in housing outcomes? Journal of Healthcare for the Poor and Underserved. 2021.

Click here to view the manuscript.


This study aimed to examine the role of race, sex, history of arrest, and psychiatric diagnosis on length of stay, shelter discharge, and current housing status among those staying in transitional shelters in Greater Boston.


We reviewed records from the Massachusetts Department of Mental Health (DMH) for individuals residing in three DMH homeless shelters from 2013 – 2015. DMH transitional shelters represent approximately 7% of emergency shelter beds in Greater Boston, and they offer temporary shelter housing for homeless individuals with mental illness, with the goal of assisting transition to permanent housing. A range of services are provided for individuals residing in the shelter, including case management, medical, psychiatric, and rehabilitative services.


Results will be published once the manuscript is available online.


Derri Shstasel, MD, MPH


Corinne Cather, PhD


Additional Collaborators

David Hoffman, MD (Co-Principal Investigator); Hawa Kaba, MS; Janet Marsden, BS; Kevin Potter, PhD; Kristina Schnitzer, MD.


Funding for this project was provided by the MGH COE/Massachusetts Department of Mental Health.