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Cityscape: Volume 19 Number 3 | Families’ Experiences of Doubling Up After Homelessness


The Family Options Study

Volume 19, Number 3

Mark D. Shroder
Michelle P. Matuga

Families’ Experiences of Doubling Up After Homelessness

Hannah Bush
Marybeth Shinn
Vanderbilt University

This study examined experiences of doubling up among families after episodes of homelessness. Doubling up refers to two or more adults or families residing in the same housing unit, which has been an increasing trend in the United States in recent decades. Within the past 14 years, the number of households containing more than one family, related or unrelated, has more than tripled. Although doubling up is increasingly common among families at all income levels, this study seeks to understand the experiences of doubling up among families who have been homeless. Through qualitative interviews with caregivers of 29 families, we analyzed advantages and disadvantages of doubling up with the caregiver’s parent, other family, and nonfamily. Experiences were rated on a four-point scale—(1) mostly negative, (2) negative mixed, (3) positive mixed, and (4) mostly positive—and coded for various positive and negative themes. Overall, we found that doubling up was a generally negative experience for families in our sample, regardless of their relationship to their hosts. Common themes included negative effects on children, undesirable environments, interpersonal tension, and feelings of impermanence and instability. For formerly sheltered families in this study, doubling up after shelter did not resolve their period of housing instability and may be only another stop in an ongoing cycle of homelessness.

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