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Mismatch Between Homeless Families and the Homelessness Service System


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The Family Options Study

Volume 19, Number 3

Mark D. Shroder

Michelle P. Matuga

Mismatch Between Homeless Families and the Homelessness Service System

Marybeth Shinn
Scott R. Brown
Vanderbilt University

Brooke E. Spellman
Michelle Wood
Daniel Gubits
Jill Khadduri
Abt Associates

The enrollment phase of the Family Options Study provides information about the mismatch of the homeless service system and the needs and desires of families experiencing homelessness in 12 communities. One-fourth (25.8 percent) of the 2,490 families screened for the study after shelter stays of a week were deemed ineligible for one or more of the interventions at initial screening, with ineligibility highest for those screened for transitional housing programs (28.9 percent) and lower for short- and long-term rental subsidies (9.2 and 4.1 percent). Families given priority offers of housing and service interventions for which they appeared eligible faced additional screening by programs and made decisions about whether to enroll. Considering all stages of this process, families were least likely to be eligible for and subsequently choose to enroll (within 9 months) in transitional housing programs (32.5 percent of those initially screened) and most likely to be eligible for and subsequently lease up with long-term subsidies (73.4 percent) with short-term subsidies in between (51.0 percent). Homeless system interventions systematically screen out families with housing and employment barriers, despite the presumption that these families are the families who need interventions in order to achieve housing and economic stability.

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