Characteristics and Dynamics of Homeless Families with Children. Introduction


As noted in previous chapters, the current literature provides an extensive understanding of the characteristics and service needs of currently homeless families, yet there remain substantial knowledge gaps that make it difficult to develop an accurate and useful typology of homeless families. These gaps include the following:

  • Data on homeless families across various regions of the country;
  • Data on key subgroups, such as:
    • Families at risk of becoming homeless;
    • Moderate need homeless families;
    • Families that fall back into homelessness despite intervention;
    • Working homeless families; and
    • Two-parent homeless families.
  • Longitudinal studies of homeless families; and
  • More intensive studies of homeless children.

It was noted in Chapter 4 that none of the general population studies currently or recently conducted by the Federal Government, such as the Current Population Survey (CPS), the Panel Study of Income Dynamics (PSID), or the National Longitudinal Surveys of Labor Market Experience (NLS) can address these knowledge gaps in their present form.

Given the size, scope, and resources already invested in conducting various national surveys, it would be useful to determine if there are surveys that are ongoing, or planned for the future, that might potentially be enhanced to fill these gaps. In this chapter, current and planned survey efforts are examined and three surveys are identified that could be enhanced to provide useful information on families who have experienced homelessness one or more times, and families who are at risk of homelessness. A short battery of questions is proposed that could be added to each identified survey to strengthen the ability of each to address one or more of the gaps in the knowledge and understanding of homeless families.

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