Doubling Up: Examining the recession, homelessness, and economic indicators

written by naehblog
May 19, 2010

How many people are homeless due to the recession? We’re not sure yet. Homelessness is what we call a “lagging indicator” of a poor economy, so we still have yet to see the full impact of the economic recession on homelessness.

But that doesn’t mean the recession hasn’t had – or won’t have – an impact on homelessness. Today, the Homeless Research Institute’s launches our Economy Bytes series, in which we investigate economic indicators that are associated with homelessness. The first in this series investigates doubled-up situations.

Our research shows that 5 percent more people lived in doubled up situations in 2008 than in 2005; in particular, we’ve seen a growing share of doubled up families.

Wait, so what’s doubled up? Doubling up means that an individual or family lives with extended family, friends, and other non-relatives due to economic hardship. In this case, we define economic hardship as earning no more than 125 percent of the federal poverty level.

Not all doubled up people or families will become homeless but for many, it’s a precursor. Of those people who weren’t homeless before staying at a shelter, 46 percent spent the previous night at the home of a friend or family member, according to the 2008 Annual Homeless Assessment Report to Congress (AHAR).

But why do people double up? In short, people double up because they can’t afford housing. They have had to choose between basic necessities like food, health care, clothing and housing, and people who are doubled up have had to sacrifice their own housing.

The following chart shows the relationship between poverty and people in doubled up situations.

What about services for doubled up people and families?

The growing number of people in doubled up situations likely means there is a growing demand for services.

In 2009, the Homeless Assistance and Rapid Transition to Housing (HEARTH) Act expanded the definition of homelessness to include some doubled up families, making them eligible for homeless assistance services, but in order to effectively serve this population, we need more information about doubled up people and families.

Want to know more? The full brief is available here.