Multiply Homeless Families: The Insidious Impact of Violence

This article looks at the variables that affected repeated instances of family homelessness in contrast to families that experience only a singular event of homelessness.

Little is known about the dynamics of homelessness among families that have been homeless more than once. Using longitudinal data from the Worcester Family Research Project, this article describes the duration of family homelessness, compares the characteristics of mothers who have been homeless only once with those who had been homeless multiple times, and identifies factors that contribute to repeated episodes of family homelessness.

Certain factors such as interpersonal violence, especially during childhood, were highly associated with residential instability. At baseline, multiple homeless mothers had higher rates of childhood sexual abuse and stranger violence than their first-time homeless counterparts. Sexual molestation during childhood was also an important predictor of recidivism. When the sample was followed prospectively, first-time homeless mothers who experienced partner violence about being rehoused were more than three times as likely to experience a second homeless episode. Although homelessness is primary a structural problem, national housing policy for poor people must be combined with supportive programs. (Authors)

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Housing Policy Debate