Research indicates that most families using emergency shelters stay briefly—one to four or five months—and rarely return (Culhane et al. 2007). However, some families remain homeless for long periods of time or experience repeated episodes of homelessness. These families may have characteristics and service needs that differ from those of families who leave shelter quickly and permanently. Communities and homelessness practitioners might benefit from identifying those families’ characteristics and experiences to improve targeting of services.
Using data on families experiencing a shelter stay, this analysis seeks to identify family characteristics and past experiences that might help practitioners identify families with repeated or persistent experiences of homelessness, with homelessness defined as staying in an emergency shelter or in a place not meant for human habitation (e.g., in a vehicle or abandoned building). (Author abstract)