Toward Understanding Homelessness: The 2007 National Symposium on Homelessness Research. Rural Homelessness. Reasons for Homelessness


While systemic factors, including lack of infrastructure (e.g., child care and public transportation) to support employment; long distances between low-cost housing and employment opportunities; and inadequate treatment opportunities for disabling medical and behavioral health problems, including serious mental health and substance use problems, are frequently cited as causes of rural homelessness (Center for Family and Community Life, 2005; National Coalition for the Homeless, 2006b), research studies report personal reasons as contributing to individuals homelessness. For example, in the Vermont survey, key informants reported that homelessness was related to poverty, reduced housing options, and mental health and substance abuse problems. This contrasts with results of a follow-up study conducted in 1987, (Vermont Department of Social Welfare, 1987), which related homelessness to federal cuts in housing, welfare, and services; high housing costs; low-paying jobs for unskilled workers; deinstitutionalization; and the increase in single-parent households. In addition, studies report domestic violence as a major contributor to homelessness of women (Kentucky Housing Corporation, 1994; Intergovernmental Human Services Bureau, 2003) and unaccompanied youth (Wilder Research Center, 1998). For example, in Ohio, although about half of both groups reported economic reasons for not having a home, the non-urban group reported more family-related reasons, with non-urban women less likely to have used domestic violence shelters (Roth et al., 1985; Roth & Bean, 1986). In addition, on occasion natural disasters (such as Hurricane Katrina) contribute to homelessness in rural areas through displacement of formerly housed persons.

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