The Economic Causes and Solutions for Family Homelessness

Housing Voucher or Other Permanent Subsidy Best Way to End Family Homelessness to Maintain Stable Housing

The National Alliance to End Homelessness has shared that more than 154,000 families with children experienced homelessness at some point in 2015.

  • These families are typically composed of a young mother and one or two children under the age of six.
  • They are difficult to distinguish from the vast majority of families with poverty-level incomes who do not become homeless.
  • Adults in both groups have low levels of education and work experience, a high likelihood of having been exposed to trauma and abuse, and comparable rates of mental health problems.

Research evidence from the Center for Evidence-Based Solutions to Homelessness indicates that homelessness among families is more likely to be influenced by economic cycles compared with individual homelessness.

However, the similarities between families who become homeless and other low-income families make it difficult to design a prevention program that effectively and efficiently targets those families who are most at risk.

For those families who do become homeless, ample evidence suggests that a permanent housing subsidy—provided through the Housing Choice Voucher program or another long-term rent subsidy—is the best way for homeless families to obtain and maintain stable housing.

  • Families who exit emergency shelters with a long-term rent subsidy are significantly less likely to return to shelter or experience other forms of housing instability, such as multiple moves or crowding.
  • While homeless families need a variety of services, residential programs with on-site supervision and services, such as transitional housing, appear to be unnecessary for most families who experience homelessness.

From the available evidence, we can draw some clear lessons for policy and practice:

  • The availability of mainstream housing assistance makes a substantial difference for ending homelessness for families with children.
  • Communities should examine carefully the role of transitional housing for families.
  • Like other poor families, families who experience homelessness need an array of services and supports.

Click here to read our prior post on NJ’s lower than average family homelessness.

The Center for Evidence-based Solutions to Homelessness is dedicated to ending and preventing homelessness by connecting research to practice. Their mission is to empower communities to plan and implement services for people experiencing homelessness on the basis of the strongest available evidence.

Family Homelessness

Center for Evidence-based Solutions to Homelessness

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