Characteristics and Dynamics of Homeless Families with Children. 5.2 Implications for a Typology of Homeless Families

10/01/2007

A key distinction made in this chapter and one most relevant to any typology of homeless families is between families who need permanent mainstream housing and those who need permanent supportive housing. That distinction relates to the intensity of the service needs of parents leaving homelessness, whether those services are so essential to the particular family that they must be packaged along with the housing subsidy, and whether any of those services require staff to be on-site—for example, on-site case managers or mentors.

Another dimension that should be considered is the barriers certain families face when trying to use mainstream programs. The barrier that is the most difficult to overcome and that is a clear distinguishing feature of certain families is having a criminal record.

Another area to consider might be special factors relating to the appropriate location of subsidized mainstream housing. For example, it might make sense to classify homeless families who can use subsidized mainstream housing into those for whom location is not an important factor and those for whom it is. Those for whom it is may include victims of domestic violence who need to be protected from further harm and recovering substance abusers who need to avoid trigger neighborhoods.

An issue that has not been explored in this chapter is the needs of the children who will live in the permanent housing unit. Just as parents may need to avoid trigger neighborhoods so might older children who have exhibited risky behavior or who have been involved with the criminal justice system. Alternatively, there may be some children for whom school stability or the added support of an extended network of family (perhaps including those who have been caregivers during an episode of parental homelessness) means that it is a good thing to remain living near those people, even if that means living in a neighborhood with a high poverty rate or racial concentration.

Yet another issue, relevant to both parents and children, is whether the family has ties to a particular institution—for example, a mental health facility or a religious institution—and whether this is relevant to the location of permanent housing.

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