From Our Federal Partners: Homeless Families Research Briefs

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Administration of Children and Families (ACF) and Office of Planning, Research, and Evaluation (OPRE) recently released two briefs using Family Options Study data. These are the last two briefs in the Homeless Families Research Briefs Series using the 20-month data, though a few more will be released using 37 month data.

Patterns of Benefit Receipt among Families who Experience Homelessness

This brief examines whether family characteristics, including age, marital status, and demographic characteristics, impact benefit receipt. The brief additionally explores the relationship benefit receipt and housing instability following the initial shelter stay and examines if help accessing benefits results in families receiving Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF). This brief builds on the findings from the first brief in the series, “Are Homeless Families Connected to the Social Safety Net?” which examined whether families receive benefits, while this brief focuses on the characteristics of families receiving and not receiving benefits.
Patterns of Benefit Receipt Highlights:
  • Families experiencing homelessness receive TANF cash assistance, Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits, and publicly funded health insurance at equal or greater rates than other families in deep poverty in the same communities.
  • Younger parents, as well as those with fewer and younger children, were more likely to receive TANF cash assistance. Parents who were not married or with a partner were also more likely to participate in TANF. The pattern is similar for SNAP, with younger parents and those not married more likely to participate.
  • Continued housing instability following a stay in emergency shelter is associated with somewhat lower participation in SNAP and publicly funded health insurance. The direction of this association is unclear. Housing instability may have disrupted a family’s ability to enroll or remain enrolled in programs for which they were eligible. Alternatively, participating in benefit programs may have helped families retain stable housing.
  • Among parents who were not receiving TANF in shelter, those who reported receiving help accessing benefits were more likely to participate in TANF 20 months after the initial stay in shelter. In contrast, receiving help obtaining benefits did not appear to have helped families retain TANF cash assistance that they had while in shelter.

Hispanic Families Experiencing Homelessness Research Snapshot

This snapshot examines experiences of a group of 381 Hispanic families after experiencing homelessness. The snapshot examines the resilience of Hispanic families 20 months after their stay in a homeless shelter, describes regional variations in families’ resiliency, and discusses how these regional differences mirror or differ from the differences of non-Hispanic families.
Hispanic Families Experiencing Highlights:
  • Hispanic families who had entered emergency shelter appeared to retain some of the resilience that seems to help other Hispanic families living in poverty avoid going into shelters.
  • The overall observation that Hispanic families were doing somewhat better than African American or white families following an emergency shelter stay masks important regional differences among Hispanic families who become homeless in different parts of the country.
  • Many—but not all—of the same regional differences were observed for non-Hispanic African American and white families, so it is likely that institutional factors have at least as much – if not more – importance as diversity among Hispanic families.
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