Archive for May 19th, 2010
How many people are homeless due to the recession? We’re not sure yet. Homelessness is what we call a “lagging indicator” of a poor economy, so we still have yet to see the full impact of the economic recession on homelessness.
But that doesn’t mean the recession hasn’t had – or won’t have – an impact on homelessness. Today, the Homeless Research Institute’s launches our Economy Bytes series, in which we investigate economic indicators that are associated with homelessness. The first in this series investigates doubled-up situations.
Our research shows that 5 percent more people lived in doubled up situations in 2008 than in 2005; in particular, we’ve seen a growing share of doubled up families.
Wait, so what’s doubled up? Doubling up means that an individual or family lives with extended family, friends, and other non-relatives due to economic hardship. In this case, we define economic hardship as earning no more than 125 percent of the federal poverty level.
Not all doubled up people or families will become homeless but for many, it’s a precursor. Of those people who weren’t homeless before staying at a shelter, 46 percent spent the previous night at the home of a friend or family member, according to the 2008 Annual Homeless Assessment Report to Congress (AHAR).
But why do people double up? In short, people double up because they can’t afford housing. They have had to choose between basic necessities like food, health care, clothing and housing, and people who are doubled up have had to sacrifice their own housing.
The following chart shows the relationship between poverty and people in doubled up situations.
What about services for doubled up people and families?
The growing number of people in doubled up situations likely means there is a growing demand for services.
In 2009, the Homeless Assistance and Rapid Transition to Housing (HEARTH) Act expanded the definition of homelessness to include some doubled up families, making them eligible for homeless assistance services, but in order to effectively serve this population, we need more information about doubled up people and families.
Want to know more? The full brief is available here.
Emphasizing this idea, Byrne noted, “One of the most interesting things about Massachusetts is that some providers in the state are already having great success in implementing some of the strategies that we present in the paper as effective alternatives to emergency shelter. This is just one of several reasons why Massachusetts is in a particularly good position to adopt some these strategies on a larger scale and truly change how it approaches family homelessness.”
The commenter is also correct that not all families will be able to transition off of a short term rental subsidy. Indeed, some, although likely not the majority, will require longer term and more intensive support. This underscores the importance of assessing family need and appropriately calibrating assistance to meet that need. When resources are finite, it is important to provide the most intensive interventions like permanent subsidies to families with the greatest needs and the less intensive interventions to families with less intensive needs. In the paper we discuss different models for doing so, including establishing multiple eligibility criteria for different levels of assistance.”