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Family Options: Finding the Best Interventions to End Homelessness for Families


  • More than 150,000 families in America experience homelessness each year.
  • Abt researched the most effective ways to reduce family homelessness.
  • Long-term housing subsidies are the best option to benefit families.
The Challenge

More than 150,000 families experience homelessness each year and are forced to seek emergency shelter or face life on the street. The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development wanted to understand the most effective options to help these families. 

The Approach

The Family Options Study helped provide answers to that question. Researchers from Abt and Vanderbilt University gathered evidence about which housing and services interventions worked best for homeless families. From September 2010 through January 2012, we enrolled 2,282 families in a random assignment study in 12 communities. Our final survey, conducted three years after enrollment, measured the impact of alternative housing and service interventions on family outcomes.  

The Results

The study’s results reinforced an earlier short-term outcomes study that found that providing long-term housing subsidies is the best option. We learned that providing families with priority access to long-term housing subsidies not only prevents homelessness but also reduces food insecurity, school moves for children, and intimate partner violence. The study thus provided important evidence for policy makers for future decisions about how to allocate limited resources to fight homelessness.

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