Housing Is Not Enough: Helping Homeless Families Achieve Self-Sufficiency

While certain issues affect all homeless people, several are of particular relevance to homeless families. From the myriad of pressing issues surrounding the problem of homelessness, this report focuses on the following four points:

1. In terms of the causes of homelessness, most families do not find themselves homeless as the result of a single financial mistake or stroke of bad luck; rather it is common for families to become homeless after a series of changes in their lives. These are likely to involve a combination of factors ranging from economic hardship due to a layoff or lack of training to a mental health issue or recurring substance abuse habit.

2. The effects of homelessness, like the causes, are not isolated and specific. Furthermore, the problems that lead a family to homelessness often multiply and worsen for a period of time before the individuals and the family as a whole are able to alleviate them and regain  self-sufficiency.

3. To recover from homelessness and achieve self-sufficiency, housing assistance alone is not enough for most families. Most require assistance and opportunities in areas at least as comprehensive as the issues that caused their homelessness in the first place. Areas of need include financial planning, substance abuse counseling, further education, parenting classes, mental health counseling, and treatment for chronic illnesses (including HIV/AIDS), among a host of others.

4. For homeless families to improve their circumstances, their children must be able to remain in school and receive services necessary to address the developmental challenges that are likely to arise as a result of their homelessness.  Without addressing the specific needs of homeless children, particularly those needs related to their homelessness, the long-term prospects for a family’s well-being may be greatly compromised.

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