Academic journal article Cityscape

Families' Experiences of Doubling Up after Homelessness

Academic journal article Cityscape

Families' Experiences of Doubling Up after Homelessness

Article excerpt

Introduction

A report prepared for the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) revealed that, between 2003 and 2009, the rate at which new households formed shrank, and the number of doubled-up households-containing an adult other than the householder and the householder's spouse, partner, or children under the age of 21-increased (Eggers and Moumen, 2013). The report used data from the American Housing Survey between 2003 and 2009 to calculate that doubled-up households containing relatives and nonrelatives increased by 7.5 and 12.1 percent respectively, whereas the total number of households increased only 5.6 percent. Households with an unrelated subfamily increased especially dramatically from 199,000 to 622,000 during the 6-year span. Although data incompatibilities make changes from 2009 to 2011 less certain, it appears that the number of households with related subfamilies continued to climb by 366,000 during this period, but the number with unrelated subfamilies fell by 80,000. The report linked the increase of Americans doubling up with the recent economic recession but suggested the need for further research to follow this trend.

Doubled-up households reflect a wide range of experiences, and doubling up is motivated by many factors. The recession sparked an increase in the number of individuals, particularly young adults ages 18 to 34, doubling up with both family members and nonrelatives (Mykyta and Macartney, 2011). According to Norton and Glick (1986), single-parent families rarely own homes compared with two-parent families and have a higher rate of residential mobility, which may cause single parents to double up more often. Winkler (1993) found that single mothers tend to double up with either other single female relatives or a related married couple, and these mothers tend to be young with little education or work experience. Sharing homes can also be related to ethnic-racial cultural practices of those in the household (Koebel and Murray, 1999). In the United States, Asian and Hispanic households are more likely than non-Hispanic White and Black households to contain more people due to their historically close-contact societies and cultural heritage (Myers, Baer, and Choi, 1996). The experience of families who have been homeless may be less positive than for other groups, because many had already left doubled-up situations they found unsatisfactory or believe emergency shelters preferable to the doubled-up situations that are available to them.

In the Family Options Study of housing and service interventions for families experiencing homelessness, 85 percent of families were doubled up with other households as adults because they could not pay rent, and 45 percent of families reported living with friends or relatives immediately before entering the shelters from which they were recruited to the study (Gubits et al., 2015). The nearly 2,300 families from 12 sites were randomly assigned to special offers of long-term housing subsidies without additional services, short-term subsidies with some services focused on housing and self-sufficiency, transitional housing programs with extensive social services, or usual care. At 20 months after entering shelter, 31 percent of study families assigned to usual care, 12 percent of those offered long-term subsidies, 26 percent of those offered short-term subsidies, and 32 percent of those offered transitional housing reported spending at least 1 night in the past 6 months with a friend or relative because they could not find or afford a place of their own (Gubits et al., 2015). To better understand the implications of doubling up for formerly homeless families, this study looks at different doubled-up situations that a subset of Family Options Study families from all intervention groups experienced after an episode of homelessness.

Review of the Literature

Although little is known specifically about the consequences of doubling up for families experiencing homelessness, research on sharing homes provides insight into possible positive and negative effects (Ahrentzen, 2003). …

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