Toward Understanding Homelessness: The 2007 National Symposium on Homelessness Research. People Who Experience Long-Term Homelessness: Characteristics and Interventions. Better Information About How to Prevent Chronic Homelessness

09/01/2007

A greater understanding of the role of family dynamics in the genesis of housing loss among people with mental illness or other disabilities that increase vulnerability could inform whether interventions addressing the family unit could prevent the onset of homelessness, or prevent future adult homelessness among children living in high-risk families.

Research must be focused on dually disordered persons with criminal justice histories to assist them to better control their illnesses, remain stably housed, avoid recidivist involvement in the criminal justice system, obtain gainful employment, and be included in the life of society at large. Innovative efforts to link chronically homeless people with criminal justice involvement to treatment and housing services in the community at the point of release from jail or prison is needed to counteract repeated homelessness and dependence on institutional care.

Interventions designed to prevent homelessness among people with severe mental illness at risk but never homeless is an important and underdeveloped area. Issues to be considered include early preventive treatment of substance use disorders, treatment compliance, vocational and job training, socialization, and family support. Assisting people at risk for long-term homelessness to retain existing housing or obtain more appropriate housing should be part of a comprehensive strategy to ameliorate chronic homelessness. Such upstream interventions might include supportive housing for youth aging out of foster care (New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene, 2006), family-based interventions for people with mental illness residing with family members (Connery & Brekke, 1999), and tenancy preservation for those at-risk of homelessness to assist them in retaining existing housing through housing court and other advocacy measures (Burt et al., 2005).

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