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Research Brief: Homelessness Associated with Increased Use of Public Benefits

Jill Khadduri, Abt Global; Martha R. Burt, Urban Institute; and Douglas Walton, Abt Global


July 18, 2017
This is the fifth in a series of research briefs commissioned by the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) that draws on the Family Options Study to inform HHS and HHS grantees as they carry out their special responsibilities for preventing and ending the homelessness of families, children, and youth.

It expands on the information in the first brief, Are Homeless Families Connected to the Social Safety Net? Topics of other briefs already published include the well-being of young children and adolescents following an episode of sheltered homelessness.

Findings from this brief include:
  • Families experiencing homelessness receive TANF cash assistance, SNAP benefits, and publicly funded health insurance at equal or greater rates than other families in deep poverty in the same communities.
  • Younger parents, as well as those with fewer and younger children, were more likely to receive TANF cash assistance. Parents who were not married or with a partner were also more likely to participate in TANF. The pattern is similar for SNAP, with younger parents and those not married more likely to participate.
  • Continued housing instability following a stay in emergency shelter is associated with somewhat lower participation in SNAP and publicly funded health insurance. The direction of this association is unclear.