Characteristics and Dynamics of Homeless Families with Children. Paper Title: Permanent Housing for Homeless Families: A Review of Opportunities and Impediments

10/01/2007

Paper Title: Permanent Housing for Homeless Families: A Review of Opportunities and Impediments
(full text of paper can be found in Appendix C of this report)
Authors: Jill Khadduri and Bulbul Kaul

Summary of Presentation. The presentation highlighted permanent housing options, subsidies, and other resources offered by programs for low-income renters, and outlined the barriers that homeless families experience when attempting to access these resources.

The authors argue that a typology of homeless families should differentiate between families who need permanent mainstream housing and those who need permanent supportive housing. In addition, how do we identify families for whom the inability to afford housing is not a barrier to get out of homelessness? For example, domestic violence victims might be able to afford housing but other barriers preclude their ability to access safe housing.

Another consideration for the typology should be the barriers (e.g., criminal records) that families face when attempting to use mainstream programs. Appropriate location of mainstream housing may also depend on individual circumstances of both the parent and child (e.g., domestic violence victims) and should be accounted for when developing a typology.

Knowledge gaps identified include who needs services packaged with the housing, ways in which there is a locational mismatch (e.g., in suburban and rural areas there may be a mismatch between unit sizes and the numbers of bedrooms needed by families trying to leave homelessness for housing) and how much targeting of the current programs is actually taking place (i.e., what are public housing authorities doing right now, how much preference are they giving to families trying to leave homelessness).

Summary of reactions and comments. The discussion focused on the extent to which there are families who might need services packaged with their housing and on how best to describe the permanent housing that is needed. Also reiterated was the need to differentiate between families who need permanent supportive housing and those who just need housing.

Some participants questioned whether public housing authorities would be interested in going back to establishing a priority of housing for homeless families in the absence of a Federal priority. Some suggested that it may be easier to guarantee specific providers a certain number of housing slots or to link the housing to Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF). Also suggested was the need to be sensitive to how a typology is framed for favorable public opinion. It is more politically popular to inform the field on how to limit family separation versus assisting a less politically favorable group like substance abusers.

In response to the paper, it was also suggested that the number of housing slots available be considered and represented in light of the number of families on the wait lists. Another element of potential interest would be examining the methods for determining how many families would become homeless based on how long they were on the wait list.

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