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Life After Transitional Housing for Homeless Families

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Document date: March 01, 2010
Released online: May 03, 2010


This report addresses two questions: 1) What happens to homeless families who "graduate" from HUD-funded transitional housing (TH)? and 2) What factors affect housing, employment, and children's well-being after TH? Project sites included Cleveland/Cuyahoga County, Detroit, Houston/Harris County, San Diego City and County, and Seattle/King County. 195 families were interviewed as they left TH, with 179 (92 percent) completing 12 month follow-up interviews. Certain aspects of TH programs and the way that mothers used them affected mothers' education and employment immediately after TH and employment 12 months later. Having a housing voucher at TH exit was the strongest predictor of stable housing during the year following TH, but had no effect on employment outcomes.

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Introduction and Overview

The concept of transitional housing has a long history in the fields of mental health and corrections, predating its application to the homeless arena by decades. State and local public mental health and corrections departments developed these residential programs to ease the transition back into regular housing for people leaving mental hospitals or prisons. Stevens (2005) describes the history of halfway houses for people leaving correctional settings and their transition quite recently into community residential centers. To use one state as an example, in 1974 Ohio had 22 certified halfway houses for people leaving prison (Ohio Adult Parole Authority 2005).

Policy makers in the mental health arena were also focusing on community-based residential and nonresidential services (Biegel and Naparstek 1982). In 1982 an American Psychiatric Association task force published a report, A Typology of Community Residential Services (APA 1982), that sought to establish a common nomenclature for community residential programs located throughout the country serving people with serious mental illness. The task force had spent four years identifying, cataloging, and attempting to classify the many such programs in existence at that time.

These community-based transitional programs were developed for many reasons, including a desire to avoid the high cost of institutional versus community-based care and the desire or legal obligation to maintain some intermediate level of supervision over people being released from institutions. One historical motivation for developing transitional community residential settings comes closest to the one driving the growth of transitional housing programs for homeless people. Officials running state agencies and institutions saw people fail in the community and return to institutions when they did not have the skills, connections, and supports that would help them establish themselves independently. Transitional programs were developed to increase the likelihood that those released from institutions would, once they "graduated" from a transitional program, be able to sustain independent living in the community.

(End of excerpt. The full report is available in PDF format.)

Topics/Tags: | Housing | Poverty, Assets and Safety Net

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