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Transition Supports to Prevent Homelessness for Youth Leaving Out-of-Home Care

Samantha Shewchuk, Stephen Gaetz, David French
Canada
2020

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This report was produced as part of the Transition Supports to Prevent Homelessness for Youth Leaving Out-of-Home Care Study, conducted by the Canadian Observatory on Homelessness and A Way Home, Canada. As part of the study, the research team conducted a review of the literature (N=137), profiled 275 national and international programs and policies, and interviewed 22 stakeholders (i.e., program providers, policymakers, advocates, and researchers) whose work focuses on supporting young people transitioning out of care. Captured within this report and its related supplemental files are the foundational components of promising practices and policies that exist across jurisdictions to support youths’ transitions out of care.

Child Welfare and Youth Homelessness in Canada. A Proposal for Action

Naomi Nichols, Kaitlin Schwan, Stephen Gaetz, Melanie Redman, David French, Sean A. Kidd, Bill O’Grady
Canada
2017

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With the release of Without a Home: The National Youth Homelessness Survey (2016), we now have robust national data on the links between youth homelessness and child welfare involvement. Without a Home, conducted by the Canadian Observatory on Homelessness in partnership with A Way Home Canada, surveyed 1,103 youth experiencing homelessness across Canada. Youth in 42 different communities and nine of the 10 Canadian provinces, as well as Nunavut Territory, completed the self-report survey. The results provide the first national picture of youth homelessness in Canada.

Without a Home’s findings on child welfare involvement were striking. Almost sixty percent (57.8%) of homeless youth in Canada report involvement with the child welfare system at some point in their lives. In comparison, among the general population in Canada, roughly 0.3% of youth have child welfare involvement. This suggests that youth experiencing homelessness are 193 times more likely than youth in the general population to report involvement with the child welfare system.

The results of Without a Home indicate that young people who have been involved in the child welfare system are vulnerable to homelessness and housing insecurity. To address this important finding, we have proposed a number of evidence-based recommendations that reflect our commitment to human rights and equity. These recommendations are intended to provide better support for young people in care, and to ensure that they are able to successfully transition from care in ways that ensure housing stability, access to supports, and well-being. The recommendations are directed at the Government of Canada, provincial and territorial governments, and child protection services and workers. The content of the recommendations are drawn from and build upon a broad range of resources from Canada (British Columbia, Alberta, Ontario) and Europe (Scotland, FEANTSA).

All-Party Parliamentary Group for Ending Homelessness: Homelessness Prevention for Care Leavers, Prison Leavers, and Survivors of Domestic Violence

All-Party Parliamentary Group – Great Britain
United Kingdom
2017

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Homelessness should be rare, brief and non-recurrent. In our first Parliamentary year we have developed strong cross-party support and provided a platform for homeless people to engage with Parliamentarians and inform the political dialogue surrounding homelessness. Alongside MPs and Peers, the APPGEH works with a wide range of homelessness organisations to enable the group to be fully informed on the debate and understand the diverse homeless population. Our goal from inception was to develop robust policy solutions to prevent and end homelessness.

Predictors and Correlates of Unstable Housing Experiences Among a Child Welfare-Involved Sample

Janet U. Schneiderman, Andrea K. Kennedy, Theresa A. Granger, Sonya Negriff
USA
2020

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The study examined whether youth demographics, family factors, and maltreatment type were related to unstable housing and whether unstable housing predicted delinquency and marijuana use. Participants included 216 child welfare-affiliated adolescents (mean age = 18.2 years). Youth with more lifetime residences were more likely to experience unstable housing although Latino youth (compared to White, Black, or multiethnic/biracial) were less likely to experience unstable housing. Unstable housing was associated with subsequent delinquency. Caregiver type (parent vs. relative/unrelated caregiver) was not related to unstable housing, thus homelessness prevention programs should include youth who remain with their parents and those with non-parent caregivers.

Risk and Protective Factors Contributing to Homelessness Among Foster Care Youth: An Analysis of the National Youth in Transition Database

Peggy Kelly
USA
2020

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Homelessness is a pervasive problem among youth aging out of the foster care system. Many of these youth exit the system without any concrete plans for their future and wind up suffering bouts of homelessness. Although a growing body of literature has begun to look at the factors that contribute to homelessness among this population, less has been written about the factors that guard against homelessness. Furthermore, most of the studies have been confined to a particular geographic area. Using data from the National Youth in Transition Database (NYTD), combined with the Adoption and Foster Care Analysis Reporting System (AFCARS), the present study provides an analysis of the risk and protective factors contributing to homelessness among a nationwide sample of foster care youth at age 21, 29% of whom had experienced homelessness. The findings indicate that the strongest protective factors against homelessness were having a connection to an adult and remaining in foster care until age 21. Other protective factors included having at least a high school education, being currently enrolled in school, and having a full-time job. On the other hand, the strongest risk factors contributing to homelessness were having been incarcerated, as well as having been referred for substance abuse. Other significant risk factors were having a runaway history, having received public food assistance, and being emotionally disturbed. Given these findings, child welfare agencies should make greater efforts to ensure that youth have an adult in their life whom they can trust and turn to for help, as well as encourage youth to remain in care until they are better prepared for life on their own.

Predicting Homelessness Among Emerging Adults Aging Out of Foster Care

Melissa Ford Shah, Qinghua Liu, J. Mark Eddy, Susan Barkan, David Marshall, David Mancuso, Barbara Lucenko, Alice Huber
USA
2017

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This study examines risk and protective factors associated with experiencing homelessness in the year after “aging out” of foster care. Using a state-level integrated administrative database, we identified 1,202 emerging adults in Washington State who exited foster care between July 2010 and June 2012. Initial bivariate analyses were conducted to assess the association between candidate predictive factors and an indicator of homelessness in a 12-month follow-up period. After deploying a stepwise regression process, the final logistic regression model included 15 predictive factors. Youth who were parents, who had recently experienced housing instability, or who were African American had approximately twice the odds of experiencing homelessness in the year after exiting foster care. In addition, youth who had experienced disrupted adoptions, had multiple foster care placements (especially in congregate care settings), or had been involved with the juvenile justice system were more likely to become homeless. In contrast, youth were less likely to experience homelessness if they had ever been placed with a relative while in foster care or had a high cumulative grade point average relative to their peers.

Homelessness and Aging Out of Foster Care: A National Comparison of Child Welfare-Involved Adolescents

Patrick J. Fowler, Katherine E. Marcal, Jinjin Zhang, Orin Day, John Landsverk
USA
2017

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The present study represents the first large-scale, prospective comparison to test whether aging out of foster care contributes to homelessness risk in emerging adulthood. A nationally representative sample of adolescents investigated by the child welfare system in 2008 to 2009 from the second cohort of the National Survey of Child and Adolescent Well-being Study (NSCAW II) reported experiences of housing problems at 18- and 36-month follow-ups. Latent class analyses identified subtypes of housing problems, including literal homelessness, housing instability, and stable housing. Regressions predicted subgroup membership based on aging out experiences, receipt of foster care services, and youth and county characteristics. Youth who reunified after out-of-home placement in adolescence exhibited the lowest probability of literal homelessness, while youth who aged out experienced similar rates of literal homelessness as youth investigated by child welfare but never placed out of home. No differences existed between groups on prevalence of unstable housing. Exposure to independent living services and extended foster care did not relate with homelessness prevention. Findings emphasize the developmental importance of families in promoting housing stability in the transition to adulthood, while questioning child welfare current focus on preparing foster youth to live.

A Systematic Review of Cognitive Functioning Among Young People Who Have Experienced Homelessness, Foster Care, or Poverty

Charlotte E. Fry, Kate Langley, Katherine H. Shelton
United Kingdom
2016

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Young people who have experienced homelessness, foster care, or poverty are among the most disadvantaged in society. This review examines whether young people who have these experiences differ from their non-disadvantaged peers with respect to their cognitive skills and abilities, and whether cognitive profiles differ between these three groups. Three electronic databases were systematically searched for articles published between 1 January 1995 and 1 February 2015 on cognitive functioning among young people aged 15 to 24 years who have experienced homelessness, foster care, or poverty. Articles were screened using pre-determined inclusion criteria, then the data were extracted, and its quality assessed. A total of 31 studies were included. Compared to non-disadvantaged youth or published norms, cognitive performance was generally found to be impaired in young people who had experienced homelessness, foster care, or poverty. A common area of difficulty across all groups is working memory. General cognitive functioning, attention, and executive function deficits are shared by the homeless and poverty groups. Creativity emerges as a potential strength for homeless young people. The cognitive functioning of young people with experiences of impermanent housing and poverty has been relatively neglected and more research is needed to further establish cognitive profiles and replicate the findings reviewed here. As some aspects of cognitive functioning may show improvement with training, these could represent a target for intervention.

Experiences and Needs of Homeless Youth with a History of Foster Care

Kimberly Bender, Jessica Yang, Kristin Ferguson, Sanna Thompson
USA
2015

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Youth exiting the foster care system through emancipation are at an increased risk for homelessness and adverse social, health, and financial outcomes. However, because youth exiting foster care are difficult to locate once homeless, few studies have examined their needs and experiences on the streets. Quantitative interviews were conducted in a large multi-site pilot study of youth (N = 601) seeking homeless services in Denver (n = 201), Austin (n = 200) and Los Angeles (n = 200). Over one-third of the sample (n = 221) included youth who reported a history of foster care involvement. The study aimed to 1) describe youth with a history of foster care in terms of their homeless contexts (primary living situations, time homeless, peer substance use, transience, and victimization) and areas of need (education, income generation, mental health, and substance use); 2) determine how homeless youth with foster care history differ from their non-foster care homeless counterparts; and 3) identify factors associated with longer duration of homelessness among youth with a history of foster care. Findings suggest that youth with a history of foster care were generally living in precarious situations, characterized as dangerous and unstable, and they had significant needs in regards to education, income generation, mental health, and substance use treatment. Although few differences were observed between youth who reported a history of foster care and those who did not, foster youth reported greater childhood maltreatment and longer duration of homelessness. Foster care youth who reported greater transience and childhood physical neglect, as well as those who were living with relatives, friends, foster parents, or in facilities in the 6 months preceding the interview reported a longer duration of homelessness. Implications are discussed for child welfare and homeless youth service organizations regarding the unique needs of foster care youth who become homeless.

Factors Influencing Risk of Homelessness Among Youth in Transition from Foster Care in Oklahoma: Implications for Reforming Independent Living Services and Opportunities

Brandon L. Crawford, Jacqueline McDaniel, David Moxley, Zohre Salehezadeh, Alisa West Cahill
USA
2015

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Research suggests that youth aging out of foster care may be at higher risk of experiencing homelessness than other youth. Among this already at-risk population there may be certain characteristics that further exacerbate the risk. This paper uses data collected from various local and state agencies to further examine significant predictors of homelessness among youth who have aged out of foster care.

History of Foster Care Among Homeless Adults With Mental Illness in Vancouver, British Columbia: A Precursor to Trajectories of Risk

Michelle L. Patterson, Akm Moniruzzaman, Julia M. Somers
British Columbia
2015

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Background: It is well documented that a disproportionate number of homeless adults have childhood histories of foster care placement(s). This study examines the relationship between foster care placement as a predictor of adult substance use disorders (including frequency, severity and type), mental illness, vocational functioning, service use and duration of homelessness among a sample of homeless adults with mental illness. We hypothesize that a history of foster care predicts earlier, more severe and more frequent substance use, multiple mental disorder diagnoses, discontinuous work history, and longer durations of homelessness.

Methods: This study was conducted using baseline data from two randomized controlled trials in Vancouver, British Columbia for participants who responded to a series of questions pertaining to out-of-home care at 12 months follow-up (n = 442). Primary outcomes included current mental disorders; substance use including type, frequency and severity; physical health; duration of homelessness; vocational functioning; and service use.

Results: In multivariable regression models, a history of foster care placement independently predicted incomplete high school, duration of homelessness, discontinuous work history, less severe types of mental illness, multiple mental disorders, early initiation of drug and/or alcohol use, and daily drug use.

Conclusions: This is the first Canadian study to investigate the relationship between a history of foster care and current substance use among homeless adults with mental illness, controlling for several other potential confounding factors. It is important to screen homeless youth who exit foster care for substance use, and to provide integrated treatment for concurrent disorders to homeless youth and adults who have both psychiatric and substance use problems.

Housing and Social Support for Youth Aging Out of Foster Care: State of the Research Literature and Directions for Future Inquiry

Susanna R. Curry, Laura S. Abrams
USA
2014

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Youth who age out of the foster care system often experience a difficult transition to adulthood in several important domains, including housing. Although high rates of homelessness are well documented, scant research has examined how youth navigate housing and living arrangements in the immediate years following emancipation. In addition, little is known about the relationship between social support and housing stability for this population. In this paper, we argue that in policy and practice regarding emancipated foster youth there is a central tension between the goal of “self-sufficiency” and the practical need to maintain and create supportive social connections. We suggest that programs for emancipated youth could benefit from more research and policy attention on this tension and how it may play a role in housing outcomes. In building our argument, we first review the literature on housing and emancipated foster youth in the transition to adulthood period. Next, we discuss the body of research literature exploring the role and function of social support for youth who have aged out of care. We highlight how policies appear to favor the development of self-sufficiency for aged-out youth over the development of a social support network and suggest key directions for future research, policy and practice concerning emancipated foster youth and housing.

Homelessness During the Transition from Foster Care to Adulthood

Amy Dworsky, Laura Napolitano, Mark Courtney
USA
2013

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Objectives: We estimated the incidence of homelessness during the transition to adulthood and identified the risk and protective factors that predict homelessness during this transition.

Methods: Using data from the Midwest Evaluation of the Adult Functioning of Former Foster Youth, a longitudinal study of youths aging out of foster care in 3 Midwestern states, and a bounds approach, we estimated the cumulative percentage of youths who become homeless during the transition to adulthood. We also estimated a discrete time hazard model that predicted first reported episode of homelessness.

Results: Youths aging out of foster care are at high risk for becoming homeless during the transition to adulthood. Between 31% and 46% of our study participants had been homeless at least once by age 26 years. Running away while in foster care, greater placement instability, being male, having a history of physical abuse, engaging in more delinquent behaviors, and having symptoms of a mental health disorder were associated with an increase in the relative risk of becoming homeless.

Conclusions: Policy and practice changes are needed to reduce the risk that youths in foster care will become homeless after aging out.

Homelessness and the Transition from Foster Care to Adulthood

Amy Dworsky, Mark E. Courtney
USA
2009

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Prior research suggests that homelessness is a significant problem among young people aging out of foster care. However, these studies have not attempted to identify potential risk or protective factors that might affect the likelihood of becoming homeless during the transition to adulthood. This paper uses data from a longitudinal study to examine both the occurrence and predictors of homelessness among a sample of young people from three Midwestern states who recently aged out of foster care.