Project Summary

PCORI has identified COVID-19 as an important research topic. Patients, clinicians, and others want to learn: What are effective ways to prevent or reduce the impact of COVID-19, especially on vulnerable populations and the healthcare workforce? To help answer this question, PCORI launched an initiative in 2020 to Strengthen Understanding of COVID-19 Impact and Inform Healthcare Responses. The initiative funded this research project and others.

This research project is in progress. PCORI will post the research findings on this page within 90 days after the results are final.

What is the research about?

People experiencing homelessness are at increased risk of COVID-19. Lack of housing can make it hard to practice social distancing or wash hands often. Permanent supportive housing programs provide housing and services for people experiencing homelessness. But researchers are still learning how these programs can best reduce COVID-19 risk.

In this study, the research team is comparing two housing models for people experiencing homelessness:

  • Place-based permanent supportive housing, or PB-PSH. This model provides housing that is only for people with a history of homelessness. PB-PSH is often located in an apartment building with neighbors who have also experienced homelessness. People can receive supportive services, such as case management or health care, on-site.
  • Scattered site permanent supportive housing, or SS-PSH. This model helps people with a history of homelessness obtain and pay for private market housing, such as a studio apartment. Case managers or healthcare teams often provide support services through home visits.  

Who can this research help?

Results may help service providers when considering ways to reduce COVID-19 risk among people experiencing homelessness.  

What is the research team doing?

The research team is enrolling 800 adults who live in PB-PSH or SS-PSH in Los Angeles County. The team is surveying participants monthly about their quality of life, healthcare use, and what they do to prevent COVID-19. To learn about barriers to preventing COVID-19, the team is also interviewing 40 participants and holding four focus groups with service providers.

People who have experienced homelessness, housing providers, insurers, and county health and housing agencies are helping to plan and conduct this study.

Research methods at a glance

Design Element Description
Design Observational: cohort study and qualitative study
Population 800 adults experiencing homelessness 
  • PB-PSH

  • SS-PSH


Primary: life satisfaction, quality of physical health, mental health symptoms, social isolation, and satisfaction with housing environment

Secondary: COVID-19 prevention practices including vaccination, healthcare utilization

Timeframe 6-month follow-up for primary outcomes

Project Information

Benjamin Henwood, PhD, MA, MSW
Lillian Gelberg, MD
University of Southern California

Key Dates

October 2023


Award Type
Populations Populations PCORI is interested in research that seeks to better understand how different clinical and health system options work for different people. These populations are frequently studied in our portfolio or identified as being of interest by our stakeholders. View Glossary
Funding Opportunity Type
Research Priority Area
State State The state where the project originates, or where the primary institution or organization is located. View Glossary
Last updated: March 4, 2022