A Pilot Study Using Mixed GPS/Narrative Interview Methods to Understand Geospatial Behavior in Homeless Populations

Carol S North, Sarah E. Wohlford, Denis J. Dean, Melissa Black, Margaret E. Balfour, James C. Petrovich, Dana L. Downs, David E. Pollio

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

11 Scopus citations


Tracking the movements of homeless populations presents methodological difficulties, but understanding their movements in space and time is needed to inform optimal placement of services. This pilot study developed, tested, and refined methods to apply global positioning systems (GPS) technology paired with individual narratives to chronicle the movements of homeless populations. Detail of methods development and difficulties encountered and addressed, and geospatial findings are provided. A pilot sample of 29 adults was recruited from a low-demand homeless shelter in the downtown area of Fort Worth, Texas. Pre- and post-deployment interviews provided participant characteristics and planned and retrospectively-reported travels. Only one of the first eight deployments returned with sufficient usable data. Ultimately 19 participants returned the GPS device with >20 h of usable data. Protocol adjustments addressing methodological difficulties achieved 81 % of subsequent participants returning with sufficient usable data. This study established methods and demonstrated feasibility for tracking homeless population travels.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1-11
Number of pages11
JournalCommunity Mental Health Journal
StateAccepted/In press - Nov 3 2016


  • Geographic information system (GIS)
  • Geospatial behavior
  • Global positioning system (GPS)
  • Homeless
  • Narrative interview
  • Tracking movements

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Health(social science)
  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health
  • Psychiatry and Mental health


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