Effective Solutions Require Both Housing and Services

November, 2015: According to a national survey of community providers who work with homeless families, only 14% say that housing with no other services can end family homelessness. This finding may explain why that the current federal policy of rapid re-housing with no other services is failing to slow the increase in family homelessness. The survey, conducted by The Bassuk Center for its new report, “Services Matter: How Housing and Services Can End Family Homelessness,” finds striking consensus among service provider about how to end family homelessness.

The survey was conducted online in September 2015. Survey results are based on 907 responses from service providers representing all 50 states. Among the survey’s findings:

Family homelessness is seen as increasing:
• 85% of providers say that family homelessness has increased in their service area over the past two years.

Services are necessary to help homeless families:
• 93% agree that most families need services and supports to remain stably housed.
• 95% agree that services should start when families enter emergency shelter and continue when they are permanently housed.

Assessment of family members is needed:
• 94% agree that assessment of each family member is needed.
• 96% agree that along with housing and income, assessments should focus on health, mental health, substance use, and trauma exposure.
• 91% agree that assessments should focus on the wellbeing of the children.

Solutions must address trauma:
• 88% agree that trauma experienced by mothers, such as domestic violence, is a common cause of family homelessness.
• 80% agree that many homeless mothers have experienced physical and/or sexual abuse as children, and now as adults have post-trauma responses.
• 93% agree that addressing the impact of trauma must be part of the solution to ending family homelessness.
• 95% agree that services for homeless families should be trauma-informed.

Mental health issues must be addressed:
• 91% agree that mental health and substance use services must be part of the solution for ending homelessness among families.
• 80% agree that depression that requires treatment is present in many homeless mothers they see.

Homeless children are struggling:
• 71% agree that most homeless children they see have difficulty attending school regularly.
• 69% agree that many homeless children they see are unable to keep up with their homework and fall behind.
• 70% agree that many homeless children they see have behavioral problems.

Services and supports as essential for an effective response:
• 97% agree that that education, job training, and income supports are necessary for many homeless mothers to remain stably housed.
• 98% say case managers should make referrals for mental health and substance use treatment.
• 97% agree that providing parenting supports improves outcomes for children.

The Bassuk Center on Homeless and Vulnerable Children & Youth connects and supports communities across the nation that are responding to family homelessness. Using research-based knowledge, evidence-based solutions, and experiences from the field, we advance policies and practices that stabilize homeless and vulnerable children, youth, and families in the community, and promote their wellbeing.