Data + Research: Foreclosure to Homelessness

written by naehblog
July 21, 2009

Today, the Director of the Homelessness Research Institute – M William Sermons – attended the National Governor’s Association’s Center for Best Practices’ “Expert’s Roundtable: Helping Families Recover from Foreclosure through Economic Opportunities and Family Supports.”

He was invited to present findings from a report he co-authored earlier this year about the relationship between foreclosure and homelessness. The report – Foreclosure to Homelessness: The Forgotten Victims of the Subprime Crisis – examines how much foreclosure has contributed to rising homelessness rates, and specifically, the rise in numbers of homeless families.

The study went like this: surveys were distributed to direct service providers. These included emergency shelter providers, transitional shelter providers, food assistance programs, and the like. These surveys asked providers to determine how many people they were experiencing homelessness as a result of foreclosure. (A copy of the survey administered is available in the appendix of the full report.)

The results were mixed.

Certainly, a majority of people said that at least some of their clients were homeless as a result of foreclosure – about 80 percent.

But the median percentage of clients that were affected was far smaller. Housing providers (including emergency, transitional, and permanent housing providers) estimated that five percent of their clients experience homelessness due to foreclosure; all respondents (including those who don’t provide housing assistance) estimated that ten percent of their clients experienced homelessness as a result of foreclosure.

But perhaps the most telling finding in the report is that in the narrative of foreclosure to homelessness, it’s mostly renters that are affected. In his presentation, Bill noted that the ratio of homeowners to renters facing homelessness was about 4:1.

This reinforces the idea that while foreclosure may play a role in the rise in homelessness, the leading factors that contribute to homelessness among families stay consistent even in this economic turmoil: unemployment, lack of affordable housing, job loss – these are all the staple causes of homelessness and continue to persist as primary causes.
This theme was not lost on the small group of experts that came to discuss our role in assisting families through the economic downturn. Representatives from the National Governor’s Association, the Center for American Progress, the Urban Institute and the Pew Charitable Trust were among the organizations represented at the table to discuss the issue at hand. The day-long meeting, which included presentations focused on available data and best practices, concluded with a discussion about “key components of a state strategy to help families recover from foreclosure” and a discussion examining what it will take for “states to put this strategy into action”.

The full report, Foreclosure to Homelessness: The Forgotten Victims of the Subprime Crisis, is available on our website.