Ending Family Homelessness

Apr 21, 2017

by David Levine, President/CEO

While the number of homeless families has decreased 56 percent since 2008 in Fairfax County — a  great success — it is still troubling that the percentage of family homelessness has remained stubbornly high.

In Fairfax County, according to the most recent 2017 homeless count, 49 percent of all homeless persons resided in families (474 people) compared to 37 percent of the overall homeless population nationwide.  The absolute numbers everywhere are not heartening.  More than 2.5 million children, many below the age of six, are homeless nationwide.

In recent years, research has shown that ending family homelessness will require a redoubling of efforts.  It will have to include more than just housing.  As one leading center of research on family homelessness, the Bassuk Center on Homeless and Vulnerable Children and Youth has advocated for a service-enriched housing offering to end family homelessness.  

In their critical report “Services Matter” published in 2015, the authors note: “… housing is critical, but for many families housing alone is not sufficient for ensuring ongoing residential stability, self-support, and well-being of family members.”

As federal policies shift toward “Rapid Re-housing” approaches, which move families quickly from shelter to housing with limited support, the consequence may well be fewer success stories. Without key and critical supports, families will recycle back into homelessness and the shelter system.

We can only hope that these federal policies will shift to more reasonable and effective service support for housing.