Characteristics and Dynamics of Homeless Families with Children. Proposed Study Options

10/01/2007

Based on previous chapters and the Expert Panel meeting, three options for future research to inform the typology are proposed (see Table 7-1). First, there remains a need to understand the exits and pathways out of homelessness and subsequent residential patterns. A longitudinal, nationally representative study of first-time homeless families requesting shelter would provide critical information on multiple gaps identified.

Key knowledge gaps Option 1:
National longitudinal study of exit patterns and shelter requests of homeless families using primary data
Option 2:
Longitudinal, cross-regional study of families utilizing homeless shelters (HMIS)
Option 3:
Testing of promising practices to use a "typology" to prevent homelessness and/or expedite exit from homelessness
Table 7-1. Knowledge gaps informed by three options
Geographic diversity Y Y No
Families over time, as they move from homelessness into other arrangements Y No No
Factors that prevent imminent homelessness Y No Y
Dynamics of service use Y Y (Y)
Homeless children Y No No
Father and father's social networks No No No
Key subgroups
Families that fall back into homelessness despite intervention Y Y Y
Families at risk of becoming homeless No No No
Moderate needs families No (Y) Y
Family separations Y No No
Working homeless families Y (Y) (Y)
Families in extended family networks (Y) No No
Two-parent homeless families Y Y (Y)
(Y) — Could potentially fill the gap.

The second option is an analysis of Homeless Management Information System (HMIS) data from a national sample of communities. The analysis of universal items would provide an understanding of the demographic characteristics of families in and across different regions, while the analysis of program-specific data, if available, would permit an examination of the patterns of service use over time and their relationship to outcomes for subgroups of homeless families.

The third option would be targeted to understanding how best to prevent homelessness, with an examination of existing efforts to triage families, such as in Hennepin County's (Minnesota) Homelessness Prevention program in which they use a risk assessment to make decisions on how to prevent homelessness locally. This option, in many respects, would examine "test runs" of typologies in action in different communities.

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