Families - Overview

206,286 people in families experienced homelessness on a single night in January 2015. Rapid re-housing and prevention are two strategies to avert and end their homelessness.

Families experiencing homelessness are similar to other, housed families living in poverty. In fact, many poor families – homeless or not – share similar characteristics: they are usually headed by a single woman with limited education, are usually young, and have high rates of domestic violence and mental illness.

Some families living in poverty, however, fall into homelessness, usually due to some unforeseen financial challenge, such as a death in the family, a lost job, or an unexpected bill, creating a situation where the family cannot maintain housing.

According to Part 1 of the Department of Housing and Urban Development's 2015 Annual Homeless Assessment Report, 206,286 people in families with children were homeless on a single night in 2015, making up 36 percent of all homeless people counted. That estimate represents a 5 percent decline compared to HUD's 2014 estimate and an 12 percent decline compared to its 2007 estimate.

Fortunately, homelessness among families is typically not a long-term experience. About 75 percent of families who enter shelter are able to quickly exit with little or no assistance and never return. Some families, however, require more intensive assistance.

One of the most important strategies for lifting families from homelessness is rapid re-housing. The more quickly families are connected with permanent housing, the more quickly their homelessness can be solved and their lives can return to relative stability. Similarly, prevention strategies – in the form of cash assistance, housing subsidies, and other services – can avert homelessness before it starts.

Many communities are taking steps to improve their response to family homelessness. The success of communities such as Alameda County, CA, which experienced a 37 percent decline in family homelessness, offers a glimpse of what can be accomplished nationally with the necessary commitment of political will and resources.


Library Resources

Solutions Brief | February 19, 2013
This promising strategy profile examines a unique partnership between a homeless service provider and a state agency administering the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families  to help homeless Idaho families rapidly exit homelessness and re-stabilize in homes of their own.
Solutions Brief | January 11, 2013
This promising strategies profile examines how Utah Workforce Services and The Road Home are using resources from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) and the Temporary Assistance to Needy Families (TANF) program to provide an integrated employment and housing intervention for homeless families in Salt Lake City.
Solutions Brief | November 27, 2012
This solutions brief describes how one homeless service agency has partnered with the TANF agency in their community to reduce family homelessness. The Mercer County Board of Social Services (MCBOSS) and Mercer Alliance to End Homelessness (Mercer Alliance) are working together to expand rapid re-housing services and change how TANF resources are used. In a two year period, the number of families in shelter or transitional housing on any given day declined by 20 percent and the number of families residing in motels over the course of a month declined by 66 percent.