Characteristics and Dynamics of Homeless Families with Children. Introduction


Despite the general conviction that homelessness is a unitary phenomenon, there is ample evidence that persons without permanent living arrangements differ significantly among themselves (Culhane and Metraux, 1999).  Recognition of this heterogeneity has led to attempts to classify subgroups of homeless persons (herein referred to as subtypes) according to a variety of characteristics and dimensions, such as (chronicity, substance abuse, psychopathology, and childhood vulnerability factors).  An important consideration in the search for subtypes of homeless persons is the specification of essential environmental, situational, and personal characteristics that have a direct role in the development, patterning, and course of homelessness. 

The goal of this chapter is to review conceptual issues and methodological strategies for developing a typology of homeless families with children.  In particular, the chapter examines the feasibility of using a multidimensional conceptual and analytic strategy to determine how best to identify distinct subgroups of families with specific constellations of risk factors and service needs. The ultimate goal of this chapter is to inform both clinical practice and public policy, including the need for effective interventions and prevention programs.

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