Characteristics and Dynamics of Homeless Families with Children. Recommendations for New Studies to Develop Typologies Relevant to Homeless Families


New cohort studies should be conducted with children in homeless families, with follow up until adulthood, including data on the variables listed in Appendix B.4. This is given the highest priority because damage to children, whether associated with severe poverty or homelessness, may have long-term repercussions on their emotional, social, intellectual, and physical development. Most studies of homeless children have had relatively short follow up. The findings in homeless and housed children should be disaggregated to identify subtypes associated with more severe social or developmental outcomes. Duration/frequency of homelessness, context of homelessness (shelter, street, doubling up), prehomeless history of the family, social isolation of the family, continuity of family life during homelessness, personal family conflicts and conflicts of the family or children with the law, nature of public and private services received, and community support, indifference, or stigmatization are examples of categories that might be significant in building a typology.  The objects of the typology would be to identify groups of children at risk of developing long-standing ill effects of childhood homelessness and protective factors thereof, as well as grouping children by service needs.

In addition, new cross-sectional and longitudinal (cohort) studies should be conducted to group homeless families based upon the environmental housing variables in the locality, and the housing, employment and financial needs of the families. Different typologies might be needed for the differing objectives of preventing eviction; securing housing for homeless families; and preventing recurrence of homelessness. This is needed to develop effective and efficient housing policies and services and perhaps could be accomplished by research on social indicators and other population statistics within states, metropolitan statistical areas, and other geographic or governmental subdivisions.

Finally, new cross-sectional and longitudinal (cohort) studies should be conducted to group homeless families according to needs for services and environmental access to needed services. This is needed to provide the services needed by this high risk population for adverse health and social effects and to help to offset some of the human damage caused by the homeless situation.

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