Characteristics and Dynamics of Homeless Families with Children

Debra J. Rog, C. Scott Holupka and Lisa C. Patton

Fall 2007

Westat, in collaboration with Vanderbilt University’s Center for Evaluation and Program Improvement, was contracted by the Assistant Secretary for Planning and Evaluation (ASPE) with the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) to conceptualize a typology of homeless families. Through this project, and in consultation with other Federal agencies, HHS seeks to identify opportunities and strategies to improve data about homeless families upon which future policy and program decisions may be based. The extensiveness and the quality of data on homeless families with children are substantially less robust than the available information about single homeless individuals. This project will investigate the availability of data with which to construct a typology of homeless families. Such a typology would foster a better understanding of these families’ characteristics, service needs, interactions with human services systems, and the dynamics of their use of emergency shelter and other services and assistance. Ultimately, it is intended that an improved understanding of the characteristics of homeless families with children will guide the development of appropriate service responses to such families and provide an empirical foundation for the design of homelessness prevention and intervention approaches.

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