Homeless Aid Too Slow, Study Shows

Article excerpt

A STUDY of homeless families released last month by Stanford University sociologists shows the public has a number of wrong perceptions about who is homeless and why.

The general public thinks of the homeless as mainly substance abusers, mentally ill, and/or lazy, notes researcher Sandy Dornbush, the study's author.

"The reality is quite different," he says.

The Stanford Center for the Study of Families, Children, and Youth conducted the study in two San Francisco Bay Area counties; 2,741 children and adults were surveyed over a two-year period. The study found that among the parents of homeless families:

* Only 5 percent had been treated for mental illness or emotional problems.

* Only 34 percent reported any history of alcohol or drug abuse.

Substance abuse among African-Americans and Mexican-Americans lower than among whites, the study found. Professor Dornbush says ethnic minorities are more likely to become homeless as a result of poverty, whereas whites' substance abuse may drive them into homelessness.

* Homeless parents are eager to find work but generally have a low level of education and job skills.

The study shows that most families become homeless because of poverty and the high cost of housing, rather than because of personal shortcomings. …