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Introduction. Previous studies have demonstrated that the homeless population experience higher stress levels than the general population. The goal of our study was to identify potential sources of stress for families staying with COTS, the largest service provider for the homeless and those at risk of becoming homeless in Vermont, and also to gauge potential interest in evidence-based stress-reduction strategies.

Methods. Interviews were conducted with seven adult representatives of seven different families (of fourteen eligible) currently residing at the family shelters managed by COTS, in fall 2016. Questions included a mix of short answer items and open ended prompts. Responses that yielded quantifiable data were compiled while responses that were open-ended were qualitatively analyzed to extract core themes.

Results. 6 out of 7 residents indicated they were at least as stressed while living at COTS as when they were homeless, and 5 out of 7 were receptive to some form of stress reduction. Common stressors included health, finances, lack of privacy, children and employment status.

Discussion. Residents at the family shelters come from a variety of cultural and experiential backgrounds. The composition of COTS' inhabitants and their needs are in dynamic flux. Accordingly, our conclusions may not translate into the future. Our observations underscore a need and a desire for stress-reduction intervention. Thus, we recommend COTS pilot both a weekly mediation class and weekly yoga class. We also suggest the organization provide nutritional information sheets to residents and explore implementing a car share program.


Rebecca Mills, Committee on Temporary Shelter (COTS)

Anne Brena, The University of Vermont

Jan Carney, The University of Vermont


Committee on Temporary Shelter (COTS)


Health-Related Quality of Life & Well-Being, Social Determinants of Health

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Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial 3.0 License

Stress Identification and Management in COTS Family Shelter Residents