Characteristics and Dynamics of Homeless Families with Children. Proposed Housing Questions

10/01/2007

As noted in Chapter 2, existing studies, including the NLS and ACS, do not provide enough information to identify families that are currently or have recently been homeless. The major enhancements that these surveys need include adding questions and/or adding response categories that make it possible to identify homeless families.

American Community Survey. Enhancements of the ACS would focus on the housing section of the survey. These enhancements would include questions to determine whether household members are currently living in some sort of emergency or transitional housing, and whether they have been homeless or at risk of being homeless in the past 12 months. Also proposed is a question on whether anyone in the household has a housing subsidy. Table 6-4 shows in which sections of the survey instrument those enhancements could be made.

Table 6-4. Possible enhancements to the American Community Survey
Current Living Situation: Possibly add after Question 1 in the Housing section:
  • Are you currently living in an emergency or transitional housing unit or in some other sort of temporary housing? Y/N
Recent Homelessness or Risk of Homelessness:* Possibly add at the end of the Housing section: In the past 12 months:
  • Did you ever not pay the full amount of rent or mortgage payments? Y/N
  • Were you ever evicted from your home or apartment for not paying the rent or mortgage? Y/N
  • Did you move in with other people even for a little while? Y/N
  • Did you stay at a shelter, in an abandoned building, an automobile or any other place not meant for regular housing, for even one night? Y/N
Housing Subsidy: Possibly add to Question 15 in the Housing section, which currently asks about food stamps:
  • At any time in the past 12 months did anyone in the household receive a housing subsidy? Y/N
* These are modified versions of questions asked in the Fragile Family Study.

National Longitudinal Surveys of Youth 1997. The NLSY97 already collects housing and mobility information. In fact, the NLSY97 uses a set of responses to describe the respondent's current living situation that already includes "Shelter (for homeless or abused) or on street…" It then follows up with a question concerning how long the person has been living in this place. The NLS97 also includes a number of questions about various risk and protective factors. Many of these questions, including such topics as illegal drug use, criminal behavior, and arrests, are asked as part of an ACASI section.

What is not collected in the NLS97 survey is whether the respondent was homeless at some point between the current and previous interviews for those who moved, and whether the respondent was ever at risk of being homeless. Finally, depending on the length of time it takes to add any of these questions into the NLS, it may also be necessary to include homeless history questions at least once. Table 6-5 shows possible enhancements in the NLSY97.

Table 6-5. Possible enhancements to the National Longitudinal Surveys of Youth 1997
Recent Homelessness or Risk of Homelessness.* Possibly add in the Household Information section: In the past 12 months:
  • Did you ever not pay the full amount of rent or mortgage payments? Y/N
  • Were you ever evicted from your home or apartment for not paying the rent or mortgage? Y/N
  • Did you move in with other people even for a little while? Y/N
  • Did you stay at a shelter, in an abandoned building, an automobile or any other place not meant for regular housing, for even one night? Y/N
History of Homelessness: It may be possible to determine whether current respondents were ever homeless and to link that information to NLS data that have already been collected.

Was there any time during your lifetime in which you:

  • Lived with others due to cost?
  • Lived in places not intended for habitation?
  • Lived in an emergency shelter?
  • Lived on the streets (including car, campsite)?

If yes to any of the above:

  • When did it occur? (month/year)
  • Who were you living with at the time:
    • Living alone
    • Partner/spouse
    • Children
    • Other family member(s) (e.g., mother, cousin)
  • How long did you live there?
* These are modified versions of questions asked in the Fragile Families Study.

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