Characteristics and Dynamics of Homeless Families with Children. Summary

10/01/2007

In summary, this project has identified a staged approach to developing typologies of homeless families and families who are at risk of homelessness. Data from existing sources provide some indication of the types of variables to be examined in order to develop classifications, but the variability among the studies in sample selection, measurement, and geographic focus limits their usefulness for typologies that could have wide-ranging relevance. Embarking upon some initial short-term efforts (e.g., studying local triaging attempts; analyzing HMIS data) can begin to further inform typology development, but it appears that the strongest data would come from enhancements of existing surveys, as well as the development of a national longitudinal study of exit patterns and shelter requests of homeless families.

In evaluating the usefulness of any developed typology, several criteria include the extent to which it:

  • Results in subgroups that have homogeneity within them;
  • Results in subgroups that are nonoverlapping and have distinct nontypology characteristics (i.e., has discriminant validity);
  • Is comprehensive in its coverage of the overall population;
  • Demonstrates construct validity by having the theoretical constructs empirically supported; and
  • Has predictive validity in that members of different subgroups show different patterns of homelessness and different responses to treatments (i.e., has clinical utility).

Most importantly, regardless of what type or how many are developed, any proposed typology must be simple to use, be developed with sufficient attention to the broad population of homeless families, and incorporate the relevant individual and environmental level factors to provide for identifiable, discrete groupings of families that have practical significance to both service providers and policymakers.

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