Families with Children

Since 2010, the number of people in families experiencing homelessness in shelters or places not meant for human habitation has declined by almost 19%, according to estimates from the point-in-time count. And PIT data indicates a 64% reduction in the number of unsheltered families, including those living in cars or outdoors.

The reduction in families that experience the most severe form of homelessness is promising, and results from the shift communities have been making towards a Housing First approach. But there are still far too many families experiencing housing crises and homelessness in communities across the country.

  • An estimated 206,286 people in families were counted as homeless on a single night in January 2015, according to PIT data.
  • More than 500,000 people in over 160,000 families used emergency shelters in 2014, according to the most recent annual data from HUD.
  • And public schools reported that 1.3 million students experienced homelessness at some point during the 2013-2014 school year. That includes sharing the housing of other people due to loss of housing, economic hardship, or a similar reason, or living in hotels/motels due to the lack of adequate alternate accommodations.

Taken together, these data indicate that we have more work to do to end homelessness among families. Communities must retool their homelessness services to minimize families’ exposure to homelessness, which is traumatizing for children and parents alike. Mainstream service systems must increase their role and coordination in providing families with appropriate services to support their housing stability and improve their health, social, educational, and employment outcomes. Meanwhile, we must also take action at the federal, state, and local level to expand the supply of affordable housing so that families don’t continue to fall into crisis.

The Problem

In many ways, families experiencing homelessness share the same characteristics as other low-income families. They are usually headed by a single woman in her late 20s, with approximately two children, one or both under six years of age. They face significant challenges, including poverty and exposure to family and community violence. However, families experiencing homelessness have less access to housing subsidies and supportive services and have weaker social networks. More than 80% have experienced domestic violence.

The Solution

Rapid re-housing has emerged in recent years as a promising intervention for helping many families move quickly out of homelessness and into stable housing. Rapid re-housing provides families with time-limited financial assistance to help them quickly secure housing and supports to address barriers to long-term housing stability, including connections to employment and services tailored to the unique needs of the household.

Most families who receive assistance from rapid re-housing programs do not return to homelessness. For families with longer-term housing and/or service needs, mainstream affordable housing or permanent supportive housing might be the right interventions. As with housing assistance, the kinds of supportive services needed by families vary.

Our Strategy

Families experiencing homelessness have varying housing and service needs. Communities must be able to quickly and effectively assess individual strengths and needs and tailor interventions and assistance accordingly. Family Connection: Building Systems to End Family Homelessness calls on communities to:

  • Develop a coordinated assessment process with the capacity to assess needs and connect families to targeted prevention assistance where possible and temporary shelter as needed.
  • Connect families to housing and services interventions (rapid re-housing, affordable housing, transitional housing, or permanent supportive housing) most appropriate to their specific strengths and needs.
  • Help families connect to the benefits, employment, and community-based services needed to sustain housing and achieve stability.
  • Develop and build upon evidence-based practices for serving families experiencing and at risk of experiencing homelessness.

Read more about family homelessness in Opening Doors.

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