© 2017 Cambridge University Press. Aims. Little is known about outcomes of drug abuse related to attainment of stable housing. This study examined outcomes of cocaine use and service provision in an urban homeless sample.Methods. Two-year longitudinal study of systematically selected homeless individuals (N = 255) in St. Louis, Missouri from 1999 to 2001. The sample was interviewed three times annually using a structured diagnostic interview. Urine drug testing was conducted at every interview, and service utilisation data were obtained from the structured interviews and the agency-provided service use data.Results. Cocaine use disorder and cocaine use proved to be distinct concepts because they predicted different outcomes across time. Cocaine use predicted subsequent poor housing outcomes, but stable housing had no apparent effect on subsequent use of cocaine. Service use predicted neither subsequent reduced cocaine use nor attainment of stable housing. Services used were appropriate to type of mental health need, but cocaine use may have reduced successful utilisation of appropriate psychiatric services.Conclusion. These findings reinforce the concept that homelessness represents a complex phenomenon and consequently, service systems need to address multiple problems. Service approaches are needed that simultaneously address the complex needs of homeless individuals.