Year of Award


Document Type

Professional Paper

Degree Type

Master of Science (MS)

Degree Name

Health and Human Performance (Community Health Option)

Department or School/College

Department of Health and Human Performance

Committee Chair

Annie Sondag

Commitee Members

Clarence E. Burns, Nancy Seldin


evaluation, homeless, mental health, pilot program, transitional housing, women


University of Montana


Single women and families with children are rapidly growing segments of the homeless population (NCH, 2009b). Homeless women generally report a lower quality of life, and are at a greater risk for various physical and mental health issues than their housed counterparts (NCH, 2009a). Mental illness, including depression and anxiety, impacts 20 to 25% of the homeless population in the United States, compared to 6% of the general population (NCH, 2009b). Social support can serve as a mediating factor between undesirable life events and depression (La Gory, Ritchey, Mullis, 1990). Unfortunately, the social support system among homeless individuals is sometimes eroded by homelessness itself, or the circumstances leading to homelessness. Additionally, because homeless individuals rarely have access to traditional treatment services for anxiety and depression, there is a need for different and innovative depression interventions. The purpose of this project was to implement and evaluate a peer mentor walking program for women in transitional housing. The program was based on a thorough needs assessment and was developed as a low-cost means of addressing the physical, social, and mental health needs of homeless women living in a transitional housing facility. Nine program participants and nine volunteer mentors were matched and met for weekly walks. Formative evaluation of the pilot program informed changes that needed to be made to improve the intervention in the future. A preliminary assessment off the effects of the program on mental health outcomes indicated the program had the desired effect on aspects of participants’ mental health including self-esteem, depression and anxiety. The results of this pilot study suggest a positive impact for peer mentor walking programs on the mental health of homeless women. Although further research is needed, peer mentor walking programs may enhance mental health by increasing self-efficacy with regard to coping with stress through physical activity and positive social relationships.



© Copyright 2012 Emily Jane Williams