The Homelessness Research Institute published a brief on January 29, 2008 that reviews recent research literature on the causes of homelessness and the effectiveness of homelessness prevention programs. This research confirms that housing assistance, especially in the form of housing vouchers, is an effective way of helping families out of homelessness and it can protect extremely low income families from becoming homeless.
The most notable statistic in this brief comes from the Voucher Family Study, a study that randomly assigned families who were found to be eligible for the Housing Choice Voucher Program into either a treatment group or a control group. The families in the treatment group were offered a voucher while the families in the control group were not. The researchers observed these families over five years and discovered that 12.5% of the families in the control group had been in a shelter or on the streets at some point in the five years of the study compared to only 3.3% in the treatment group. The Voucher Family Study also found that housing voucher assistance resulted in a 74% reduction in the incidence of homelessness.
Further research that was analyzed in this brief shows that families who become homeless have the same characteristics and face the same issues as other poverty-level families and are also just as able to effectively use housing vouchers. People with jobs are just as likely as unemployed people to move into a subsidized rental unit and minorities are just as likely to succeed with vouchers as white households. The brief goes on to say that many evaluations of programs that help people get out of homelessness show that homeless families, even those with severe challenges, can become stably housed by using housing vouchers.
The author, Jill Khadduri of ABT Associates, concludes by recommending that the appropriations for the Housing Choice Voucher Program return to its earlier policy of steady and sufficient growth in the funding of this critical program. She also suggests that PHA’s be encouraged to use the full amount of voucher funding allocated to them and that vouchers remain targeted to serve extremely low income families. Further policy implications can be found in the full research brief here: www.endhomelessness.org/content/article/detail/1875