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In doing research, Dr. Metraux uses data to look at how homeless persons interact with different service systems. The results, he said, give a big picture view that “gets people’s attention, as you can see things that you never could on the streets.”
One of the areas Dr. Metraux is currently focused on is homelessness among veterans. In response to the injustice of having people who honorably served our country end up on the streets, the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs has committed to ending homelessness among veterans by 2015. As part of this effort, the VA founded the National Center on Homelessness Among Veterans, a group with the charge to end veteran homelessness in that time frame. Through this center, Dr. Metraux studies the causes of homelessness among veterans.
A primary focus is identifying who is more likely to become homeless upon returning from the battlefield and ways to get help to these veterans before they actually become homeless. The research considers a host of factors, including post-traumatic stress disorder, history of substance abuse, and level of family support.
Another area that Dr. Metraux is currently researching concerns identifying risk factors related to youth becoming homeless. “Those who are estranged from their family are at an increased risk for becoming homeless,” he said. “This is especially true for kids who age out of foster care and are turned loose—there’s a much higher risk.”
Dr. Metraux sees data as a basis for developing ways to “retool the homeless services system to become a housing system that provides lasting solutions to this problem.”