Characteristics and Dynamics of Homeless Families with Children. Potential Problems to Anticipate in Developing a Typology


The panelists emphasized the importance of identifying the goal of a typology before beginning to develop one. Different goals would demand different designs and more than one goal could translate into multiple typologies that need to be developed. It was agreed that more than one typology was needed to inform the policy world.

Another potential problem addressed was determining whether the goal of developing and using a typology is to house families and reduce homelessness or to also provide the services needed to achieve other outcomes (e.g., increase employment).

Another anticipated problem was the need to be aware of differences at the local level that could confound findings, such as different policies in different localities (e.g., restrictions in shelters) that interact with family homelessness. For example, local-level data in Worcester, Massachusetts and Washington, DC, would not be comparable because of differences in shelter policies (e.g., age restrictions, family status requirement), availability, and quality.

Typologies and classification systems can have potentially damaging effects if improperly designed. Problems inherent in other typologies can be used as lessons for this typology by designing one that is flexible and not static.

Some of the current typologies have little intuitive appeal and, therefore, are not used by service providers and policymakers. Finally, any typology that is practical and simple is likely to omit subgroups based on the impossibility of including all existing subtypes in a single functioning typology.

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