Shelter environment and placement in community affects lifestyle factors among homeless families in Minnesota

Rickelle Richards, Chery Smith

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

30 Scopus citations


Purpose. To investigate the impact of the shelter environment and surrounding community on lifestyle factors influencing the health of homeless families. Design and Setting. Seven focus groups were conducted at two homeless shelters serving families in Minneapolis, Minnesota. Food resources and food prices at convenience stores were recorded within a five-block radius of shelters. Subjects. Low-income parents of children aged 3-12 years (n = 53). Measures. Focus groups were transcribed verbatim, evaluated for common themes, coded, and reevaluated for consistency. Food resources were mapped via GIS software, and recorded food prices were compared to available TFP market basket prices. Analysis Results. The shelter environment and surrounding community influenced lifestyle factors related to health, including food access and availability, exercise behaviors, job access, and day care issues. Participants commented that location of grocery stores, inflated prices, and poor food quality and variety limited their families' food choice and access. Walking was the main form of exercise and served as a means of transportation. Finding employment, housing, and affordable day care caused high levels of stress because of inadequate social support and government subsidies. Conclusions. Several strategies should be considered to modify environments affecting lifestyle factors among homeless families, including greater affordability and access of food, reevaluation of food stamp allotments, alterations in urban planning designs, and increased access to affordable day care.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)36-44
Number of pages9
JournalAmerican Journal of Health Promotion
Issue number1
StatePublished - Sep 2006


  • Day Care
  • Employment
  • Environment
  • Exercise
  • Food Access
  • Health
  • Homeless Families
  • Prevention Research


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