The study was successful in locating many of the homeless people in the small city of Centerville, by entering into the social networks of the homeless themselves and of the service providers, and by becoming visible at the soup kitchen and on Check Day at the GA office. The process of entering social networks was helped by the effective communication within the substantial Hispanic population of Centerville. Most of the people contacted by the research team were willing to talk, in part because of the offer to exchange valuable housing information in the highly competitive affordable housing market.
Since the time of the study, there has been a recognition by social service providers of the seriousness of the lack of affordable housing for the poor in Centerville. The Centerville Homeless Coalition has met to advocate increased affordable housing in Centerville. A new program, the Centerville Housing Intervention Fund, has been created as a revolving loan fund to help with security deposits and back rent, as well as to mediate tenant-landlord disputes. There is also now a program of transitional housing, the Centerville Family Housing Program, which has agreements with public and private landlords to take in "high risk" tenants in exchange for a promise to work with the clients on their responsibilities as a tenant.
Homelessness is perhaps the most visible manifestation of poverty. Whereas people may find various ways to increase their supply of food, paying rent depends on a reliable supply of cash. Lack of a stable home means that every area of a person's life, health, education, and employment, is in disarray. The study in Centerville was able to document these effects on a cross-section of one city's homeless population.
This research was conducted under a Joint Statistical Agreement 88-22 sponsored by the Center for Survey Methods Research, Bureau of the Census, Washington Plaza, Room 433, Washington, DC 20233. The author thanks Dr. Matt T. Salo for his assistance in this research. The findings, recommendations, and conclusions are those of the author and are not endorsed by the government.