The Bassuk Center

Health & Wellness

Family homelessness is rooted in trauma

Programs for families experiencing homelessness usually disregard how this tragedy is rooted in trauma and its mental health consequences. Policymakers fail to consider how trauma that precedes and accompanies homelessness can have devastating effects on parents, children, and youth.

Research conducted by Ellen L. Bassuk, MD has documented that over 90% of mothers in families who experience homelessness report physical and/or sexual abuse during their lives. These findings have been repeatedly confirmed by other researchers. Trauma from interpersonal violence - often committed by a family member or intimate partner - must be addressed as a central component of any solution to homelessness.

Research has also documented how Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs) can accumulate in the lives of young children to create long-lasting changes in their brains and bodies. This puts children at high risk for diabetes, heart disease, cancer, and COPD as adults—among the leading causes of death in the U.S.

ACEs are directly connected to obesity, alcohol and drug use, incarceration, and homelessness in adulthood. Without addressing ACEs while children are still developing, families are trapped in a generational cycle of homelessness.

Learn more about the importance of responding to trauma and understanding ACEs:

Infant Hand