Family Options Study: Short-Term Impacts of Housing and Services Interventions for Homeless Families

The Family Options Study, launched by HUD in 2008 (and still under way), is a rigorously designed experimental study intended to provide the strongest evidence possible about the effectiveness and relative costs of four main interventions available to homeless families—permanent housing subsidy, project-based transitional housing, community-based rapid re-housing, or usual care. More than 2,200 homeless families, including more than 5,000 children in 12 communities, were randomly assigned to one of four interventions. The families are being tracked for a minimum of 3 years and were extensively interviewed at baseline, 18 months after random assignment, and again 36 months after random assignment to assess outcomes related to housing stability, family preservation, adult well-being, child well-being, and self-sufficiency.

This report documents outcomes at 18 months, presenting striking evidence of the power of offering a permanent subsidy to a homeless family. Families who were offered a housing voucher experienced significant reductions in subsequent homelessness, mobility, child separations, adult psychological distress, experiences of intimate partner violence, school mobility among children, and food insecurity at 18 months. Moreover, the benefits of the voucher intervention were achieved at a comparable cost to rapid re-housing and emergency shelter and at a lower cost than transitional housing.

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