Section 8 and Family Homelessness


National Alliance to End Homelessness

Fact Sheets | August 6, 2004

Files: PDF | 99 KB | 2 pages


Section 8 Housing Subsidies

Effectively Ending Homelessness for Families

Updated August 6, 2004


  • A study in New York City found that families that accessed subsidized housing upon exiting homelessness were 21 times more likely to be stably housed than comparable families five years following a homeless episode. Families that remained stably housed in subsidized housing included those with a history of mental illness, substance abuse, health problems, and histories of incarceration.


  • A study in the Boston area found that nearly 90% of families that exited homelessness with a housing subsidy remained stably housed 6-12 months later.[ii]


  • An evaluation study of the Family Unification Program (FUP) voucher program found that 88 percent of child welfare involved, homeless families remained stably housed 12 months after receiving the FUP voucher. The homeless families that received vouchers were at risk of having their child(ren) removed and placed in foster care due to inadequate housing or they had children in foster care and reunification of families was delayed because they lacked adequate housing. In the FUP model, the housing authority provides a Section 8 housing subsidy and the local child welfare agency agrees to provide intensive case management services to the family post-housing placement.[iii]

  • An evaluation of a service-enhanced housing model for homeless families supported by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development and The Robert W. Johnson Foundation, found that 85% of families that received a Section 8 housing subsidy along with supportive services remained stably housed after 18 months. At 30 months, 80% of families in three demonstration sites remained stably housed and 65% of families remained stably housed in the remaining three demonstration sites. Many of the homeless families that participated in the study had multiple challenges including substance abuse, physical and mental disabilities, histories of abuse and violence and an unstable housing history.[iv]

  • Early studies have also demonstrated the effectiveness of affordable housing subsidies. An examination of exits from homelessness in New York City found that only 8 percent of families that left shelter for subsidized housing had a subsequent homeless episode. In Philadelphia, when the city adopted a strategy of moving homeless families into subsidized housing, “repeat” episodes of homelessness dropped from 50% to 10% over a three-year period.[v] Similarly, a study in St. Louis found that 6 percent of families that exited homelessness with a housing subsidy subsequently experienced a homeless episode. In contrast, 33 percent of families who left without a housing subsidy experienced a subsequent homeless episode.[vi]

Shinn, M., Weitzman, B. C., Stojanovic, D., Knickman, J. R. Jimenez, L. Duchon, L. and Krantz, D. H. (1998). Predictors of homelessness among families in New York City: From shelter request to housing stability. American Journal of Public Health, 88(11), 1651-1657. [Available online:].


[ii] Friedman, D.H., Meschede, T. and Hayes, M. (2003). Surviving against the odds: Families’ journeys off welfare and out of homelessness. Cityscape: A journal of Policy Development and Research, 6(2), 187-206.

[iii] Rog, D. J., Gilbert-Mongelli, A. M., and Lundy, E. (1998). The Family Unification Program: Final Evaluation Report. Washington, D. C.: CWLA Press.


[iv] Rog, D. J. and Gutman, M. (1997). Homeless families program: A summary of key findings. In S. L. Isaacs & J. R. Knickman (Eds.) To improve health and health care 1997: The Robert W. Johnson Foundation Anthology. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass Publishers. [Available online:].


[v] Culhane, D. P. (1992). The quandaries of shelter reform: An appraisal of efforts to "manage" homelessness. Social Service Review, 66, 428-440.


[vi] Stretch, J. J. & Krueger, L. W. (1992). Five year cohort study of homeless families: A joint policy

research venture. Journal of Sociology & Social Welfare, XIX(4), 73-88.