|munity institutions would do more to eliminate homelessness in the rural area than would the construction of public housing. Similarly, strengthening the rural community as a social surround, and linking low-income families more securely within it, could be an essential, and uniquely rural, strategy to reduce poverty and combat homelessness.|
|Recommendation #11. Toward accomplishing these goals, more applied and multidisciplinary social science research is needed. Comparative studies in different rural areas could elucidate specific regional and local causes, patterns, and variations, and could enable more effective response. More research is needed especially on the informal strategies and social resources poor people employ to keep themselves housed, so that these strategies could be fostered and replicated rather than overlooked or outlawed. Finally, research is needed on connections and comparisons between homelessness in rural and urban places, with the aim of developing more effective programs to prevent and combat homelessness, both urban and rural.|
In light of the generally weak economy of most of rural America, poverty will probably continue to grow, and with it the potential for rural homelessness. The cost of modest rural housing appears to rise, even as the incomes of poor rural residents fall. Meanwhile, the number of low-income rural residents grows. To dismiss rural homelessness as a less pressing problem than urban homelessness simply because it is less visible, less concentrated, and involves fewer people would be a grave mistake. On the other hand, to address rural homelessness with programs designed for urban areas would be a serious misuse of resources. Because rural homelessness differs from urban homelessness, and because the rural economic, social, and cultural context in which it occurs also differs, different approaches are needed.
Research for this article was supported by the Ford Foundation through the Rural Economic Policy Program of the Aspen Institute. Portions of this chapter have appeared in earlier publications ( Fitchen 1991b, 1992).