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Homelessness And Housing

This article investigated the social, behavioral, demographic and economic factors that contributed to homelessness and stability among 256 families in New York over a five-year period. The research determined the causes of homelessness among these families, identified factors that facilitated or impeded them obtaining adequate housing and highlighted the variables that contribute to housing stability. It was discovered that demographic characteristics and housing conditions were the most significant determinants of homelessness.

Racial minorities, particularly African Americans as well as previous residence in overcrowded or unstable homes placed individuals at higher risk for homelessness. Experience with domestic violence, being in a steady relationship influenced requests for housing, negatively and positively respectively. Receipt of subsidized housing was the greatest predictor of housing stability. Findings reveal that poverty continues to put a significant proportion of the population at risk of homelessness. African Americans, above any other group, are among the highest homeless population testifying to the debilitating effects of poverty on this group.

Most significantly the provision of housing subsidies means individuals are over 20 times more likely to remain stable. Funds designated for housing the homeless should be geared primarily at providing housing subsidies, agencies should be sourced to help in providing these subsidized facilities, and services should be targeted particularly at African Americans who are at the greatest risk. Marin & Vacha (1994). Self-help strategies and resources among people at risk of homelessness: Empirical findings and social services policy.

The research investigated doubled-up informal housing among individuals at risk of homelessness focusing on low income houses in Spokane, Washington. Researchers examined extent of access to social networks as alternatives to public shelter. Several demographic and economic variables correlated with this phenomenon. Data obtained from the 47-item survey administered randomly to 470 persons accessing energy assistance programs in Spokane, reveals that 82% of homeless respondents doubled up with either friends or relatives and 17% of sample provided shelter.

Individuals are more likely to double up with family than friends. Doubling up is more prevalent among women who are also more likely to double with family as compared to men who double up less and mainly with friends. Doubling up with children was noted to be prominent as well as doubling up within all-white homes. More people living with families received public assistance than those residing with friends. The family is therefore an important source of housing for the homeless.

The researchers suggest friends are not as likely to provide assistance because of requirements for public assistance which reduces benefits when unrelated adults reside in the home. Housing assistance should be provided for families willing to house homeless relatives and public assistance restrictions removed making it easier for friends to assist. Bassuk & Rosenberg (1988). Why does family homelessness occur? A case-control study. In this research Bassuk and Rosenberg (1988) examined factors that contribute to homelessness. Homeless female-headed families (49) were compared to poor housed female-headed families (81).

Interviews were conducted with mothers and children and data collected included demographics, family background, violence patterns, housing, income and employment histories, nature of relationships, parenting, medical and psychiatric histories and use of services. Data reveal that ethnic minorities are more largely represented in homeless than housed families. Homeless were more educated and employment history of both groups reveals minimal or no previous employment. Homeless mothers were more unstable and more dependent on others or services for shelter.

Less homeless mothers were born into initially female-headed homes but by adolescence two thirds in both were in female-headed homes. Fathers were more present in the lives of homeless mothers, less prone to abuse alcohol, have mental or physical illness, and also fathered the siblings of the homeless women. Mothers of the homeless had accessed AFDC less than mothers of housed. The housed mothers listed more available social supports than the homeless. There were comparative cases of mental illness, substance abuse and psychiatric problems among both groups.

Data suggest that social supports make the difference between the housed and the homeless. Programs to mend or develop social ties could help in alleviating issues related to homelessness. Schanzer Dominguez, Shrout & Caton (2007). Homelessness, health status, and health care use. The article by Schanzer et al (2007) sought to analyze the health status of 351 newly homeless individuals over an 18 month period to investigate their use of health services and to determine the effects of long-term homelessness on health and health care use.

Mental health, homelessness history, housing status, education, employment, marital status, citizenship, insurance status and other demographic data were analyzed. At entry to homeless shelters respondents reported high rates of medical, mental health and substance use complaints. Respondents homeless after 18 months had higher rates of physical and mental illnesses and more prevalent substance use disorders than those who found housing. There was no notable difference in healthcare use.

Health status either improved or remained stagnant during homelessness but more positive improvements were demonstrated among those who eventually found housing. There was an increase in the number of individuals previously uninsured who became insured regardless of housing or homeless status. Results reveal that most people who become homeless experience very poor physical health and frequently use health care services. This demonstrates that shelters are adequately providing primary care and mental health services for the homeless. Kushel, Hahn, Evans, Bangsberg, & Moss (2005).

Revolving doors: Imprisonment among the homeless and marginally housed population. The research aimed to determine the correlation of prior imprisonment status with health and illegal activities. A sample of homeless and marginally housed adults was studied to determine whether a history of imprisonment was associated with differences in health status, drug use and sexual behaviors among the homeless. Data were collected on age, gender, ethnicity, relationship status, income, health and HIV status, prior imprisonment, housing status, substance use, sexual behaviors and mental health.

Over 25% of the respondents had been imprisoned and the time served around 4 years. A large number had only recently been released. Prior imprisonment was also closely linked with drug use, HIV positive status and mental disorders. Data suggests that released prisoners are at a higher risk of becoming homeless in addition to facing problems related to obtaining a job in order to earn an income. They also have little access to primary care and mental health facilities. Support programs should be developed to properly integrate former prisoner back into the community so they can access housing and other necessary services.

Caton et al (2005). Risk factor for long-term homelessness: Findings from a longitudinal study of first-time homeless single adults. The objective of the article by Caton et al was to identify the factors that put individuals at risk for long-term homeless. The research traced 377 newly homeless individuals over an 18 month period seeking to identify the demographic, social, and health factors that contribute to initial homelessness, to understand the connection between these factors and the duration of homelessness and to identify those elements that predict the duration of homelessness.

Antisocial personality disorders, psychiatric symptoms, demographic data, information on prior living arrangements, education, employment, childhood living arrangements, family history and family support, companionship, emotional support, prior substance abuse, mental health and criminal record were analyzed. Data reveal that younger, employed, income-earning or family supported and drug and crime free statuses were predictors of a shorter duration of homelessness while older persons with a criminal history were most likely to experience long-term homelessness.

This suggests that programs to older persons those with a criminal record are not adequately supported in returning to a housed condition. Solutions should be developed to help these individuals locate and be able to afford stable housing in less time. Wood, Valdez, Hayashi & Shen (1990). Homeless and housed families in Los Angeles: A study comparing demographic, economic, and family function characteristics. The research reported by Wood et al (1990) explored the demographic, economic and family related factors contributing to homelessness among 196 families in Los Angeles, California compared to 194 poor housed families.

Researchers conducted 45 min structured interviews at major shelters considering family make up, personal abuse, drug or alcohol abuse, mental illness, family history, quantity and source of income, rental expenditure and housing history. Data reveal that majority of homeless mothers were white, there was a majority of two-parent homeless couples that were together for over a year. Drug and alcohol abuse, mental illness and child abuse was prevalent among the homeless. A family history of similar abuses was also evidenced.

Over 75% in both groups had income below the poverty level. Source of income for housed families was almost solely from welfare and only 61% among the homeless. Both groups spent more than 80% income on housing. Economic and housing problems were the main contributors to homelessness. There are more two-parent than single homeless families and most families both housed and homeless are unable affordable housing. Welfare policies target single-parent families preventing two-parent homeless families from benefiting from programs.Two-parent should be encouraged and allowed equal access to welfare programs. Affordable housing for the poor must also be developed.


Bassuk, E. L. & Rosenberg, L. (1988, Jul). Why does family homelessness occur? A case-control study. American Journal of Public Health, 78(7), 783-788. Caton, C. L. , Dominquez, B. , Schanzer, B. , Hasin, D. S. , Shrout, P. E. , Felix, A. , McQuisition, H. , Opler, L. A. & Hsu, E. (2005). Risk factor for long-term homelessness: Findings from a longitudinal study of first-time homeless single adults.

American Journal of Public Health, 95, 1753-1759. Kushel, M. B. , Hahn, J. A. , Evans, J. L. , Bangsberg, D. R. & Moss, A. R. (2005, Oct). Revolving doors: Imprisonment among the homeless and marginally housed population. American Journal of Public Health, 95(10), 1747-1752. Martin, M. V. & Vacha, E. F. (1994). Self-help strategies and resources among people at risk of homelessness: Empirical findings and social services policy. Social Work, 39(6), 649-657. Schanzer, I. B. , Dominguez, B. , Shrout, P. E. & Caton, C. L. (2007). Homelessness, health status, and health care use.

American Journal of Public Health, 97, 464-469. Shinn, M. , Weitzman, B. C. , Stojanovic, D. , Knickman, J. R. , Jimenez, L. , Duchan, L. , James, S. & Krantz, D. H. (1988). Predictors of homelessness among families in New York City: From shelter to request to housing stability. American Journal of Public Health, 88, 1651-1657. Wood, D. , Valdez, R. B. , Hayashi, T. & Shen, A. (1990). Homeless and housed families in Los Angeles: A study comparing demographic, economic, and family function characteristics. American Journal of Public Health, 80, 1049-1052.

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