Provision of contraceptive services to homeless women: results of a survey of health care for the homeless providers

Barry G. Saver, University of Massachusetts Medical School
Linda F. Weinreb, University of Massachusetts Medical School
Lillian Gelberg, University of California
Suzanne Zerger, National Health Care for the Homeless Council

Document Type Article


Homeless women have both a higher rate of pregnancy and a higher proportion of unintended pregnancies than other American women. The authors sought to learn about contraception services offered by providers of health care to homeless women and barriers to provision of long-acting, reversible contraception in these settings. A survey of the 31 member organizations in the national Health Care for the Homeless Practice-Based Research Network was conducted, inquiring about services provided and barriers to service provision. Among the 20 responding organizations (65% response rate), 17 directly provided contraceptive services; two referred patients elsewhere, and one provided no contraceptive services. All 17 that provided such services provided condoms; 15 provided oral contraceptives; 14 provided injectable contraception; 6 provided intrauterine devices, and 2 provided contraceptive implants. Barriers to providing the last two methods included lack of provider training, lack of resources for placement, costs, and concerns about complications. The present survey results suggested very limited access for homeless women across the country to the two most effective means of long-acting, reversible contraception. Modest investments of resources could reduce a number of barriers to providing these services.