Helping the Homeless (...or not)

by Ename1 on April 20, 2014 - 12:36pm

New York City, a few years back, instituted a homelessness prevention program named “Homebase,” essentially to help homeless individuals and families get back on their feet and provide some aid.  Researchers Sarena Goodman, Peter Messeri, and Brendan O’Flaherty, decided to address the question on whether prevention programs like Homebase impact the length of time the homeless, specifically homeless families, spend in shelters (2014).  Through record data analysis, the researchers gathered statistics concerning family size, number of children, and length of shelter spells.  They found that Homebase did not affect the length of time spent in a shelter nearly at all, yet they discuss their theoretical conclusion that Homebase did in fact avert nine to sixteen percent of homeless stays during the months of operation.

            One important factor to consider which the study referred to is that the theoretical conclusion is tough to verify, due to the issue of determining how many stays were actually avoided and for what reasons, because it’s logically impossible to decipher a specific number of homeless stays that would have happened when they did not happen.  Another aspect to pay attention to is the data and statistics.  Through record data analysis, data that has already been collected from other sources for other purposes is used to address a completely different question.  In this study, the researchers collected this already existing data on family composition, meaning how many adults versus children are in a family, and also on the time spent in homeless shelters during operating months and non-operating months.  The relatively general statistics gathered worked for the method (or formula) which they used to analyze, however, it only provides a general conclusion.  Completely lacking, as the researchers conceded to, were statistics about race, sex, ethnicity, etc.  This kind of information would have made it possible to determine other answers, such as why certain families stay longer, or if programs such as Homebase appeal to specific races, which would provide important knowledge in supporting the programs to make them more efficient.  


Goodman, S., Messeri, P., O’Flaherty, B. (2014). How Effective Homelessness Prevention Impacts the Length of Shelter Spells. Journal of Housing Economics, 23, 55-62.


The homeless population has always been something that I have been passionate to help,
and I intend my career focus to be working with the homeless population. I grew up as a youth in Savannah Georgia, where poverty was well known, not specifically where I lived but we constantly traveled into areas that were far from stellar. Every year my mother and I drove out to Atlanta (roughly 4 hours away) to see the Atlanta Braves baseball team play, and as we were walking out of the ballpark around 11 at night I noticed a homeless man who fell asleep in his wheelchair while holding a broken juice container that he was collecting money in. All of the money he had collected fell to the ground, and it was obvious that he was too tired to notice. I was around 6 years old, and this one event has helped shaped my political views, my college degree choice, and my career path. I believe that everyone no matter what deserves to have a roof over their head and know where their next meal is coming from. As far as this study, it seems as if you found some issues with the study, which is troubling to me because the government puts so much funding into programs like these and to not care enough to even get anything out of it is absurd as far as I’m concerned. With this economy there are just more and more homeless who need help, and now that someone in my family is in desperate need of help in order to not become homeless, this societal issue is even closer to me. I have lived many places, and amongst many different cultures across the country, but one thing that I have noticed about myself is that my views for the homeless and the people in need throughout the country have stayed the same, and I intend to provide help with these issues until the day die.

In my News activism class I have had the chance to partake in a volunteer opportunity in Montreal to help the homeless. I believe it is very important to help the less fortunate. I admire shelters that have people who devote their lives in aiding others. Like in your post where you highlight the fact that the researchers are still unsure of the causes and reasons behind homelessness I too judge it must be as a major social issue that must be addressed in society in order to propel our community forward.

First off, very interesting article. I did not know that New York City had implemented a program to prevent homelessness a few years ago. Even though the results are not great, I believe it is great that leaders and authorities try to address this issue, as it shows that itinerants are not neglected or ignored. However, it is obvious that it would be a lot better if the program was more effective. I read a E-book recently called "A Plan Not A Dream: How to End Homelessness in 10 Years" written by the Canadian Alliance to End Homelessness. It claims that the most effective and less costly solution to homelessness is through permanent affordable housing rather than emergency services. This is interesting as it shows a different point of view about how we could remedy to this issue both in Canada and in the United States.

Here's a link to the E-book if you want to check it out: