An investigation of differences in social support between homeless and never-homeless female -headed families and different types of homeless families

Debra Wallace Hertz, Fordham University

Abstract

Families with children comprise 40% of the homeless population. Most are headed by single women with young children. Research has sought to identify risk and protective factors associated with family homelessness. Limited research has focused on how the risk and protective factors interact with each other. This study conducted secondary data analysis on data collected for the Worcester Family Research Project, a longitudinal study of homeless and low income families. This study explored whether three constructs of social support---support network competence, support network size, and received social support---acted as protective factors between the risk factors of substance abuse and mental health problems and a family experiencing homelessness. The federal government has given funding priority to the chronically homeless, a subgroup characterized by long or frequent episodes of homelessness coupled with a disabling condition such as substance abuse, mental health problems or both. Although families comprise the largest and fastest growing subgroup of the homeless population, they are excluded from the definition of chronic homelessness. Cluster analysis was used to create a typology of homeless families based on the federal government's definition of chronic homelessness. Further analysis examined whether the three constructs of social support varied among the subtypes of homeless families. Results indicated that while social support, as a whole, did not affect the relationship between the risk factors of substance abuse and mental health problems and family homelessness, support network competence acted as a protective factor against family homelessness. Support network competence is an important construct of social support that has rarely been examined. The cluster analysis revealed four subtypes of homeless families named episodic, at risk, transitional, and chronic. Nineteen percent of the families were chronically homeless. Practice implications include the need for programs to work with homeless families to establish strong and healthy community ties. Policy implications include the need to expand the definition of chronic homelessness to include families with children. Future research should be conducted to examine further the relationship between support network competence and family homelessness and to determine the extent of chronic homelessness among homeless families. ^

Subject Area

Social Work|Sociology, Individual and Family Studies|Sociology, Public and Social Welfare

Recommended Citation

Debra Wallace Hertz, "An investigation of differences in social support between homeless and never-homeless female -headed families and different types of homeless families" (January 1, 2006). ETD Collection for Fordham University. Paper AAI3200626.
http://fordham.bepress.com/dissertations/AAI3200626

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