Helping the Homeless (...or not)
by Ename1 on April 20, 2014 - 12:36pm
New York City, a few years back, instituted a homelessness prevention program named “Homebase,” essentially to help homeless individuals and families get back on their feet and provide some aid. Researchers Sarena Goodman, Peter Messeri, and Brendan O’Flaherty, decided to address the question on whether prevention programs like Homebase impact the length of time the homeless, specifically homeless families, spend in shelters (2014). Through record data analysis, the researchers gathered statistics concerning family size, number of children, and length of shelter spells. They found that Homebase did not affect the length of time spent in a shelter nearly at all, yet they discuss their theoretical conclusion that Homebase did in fact avert nine to sixteen percent of homeless stays during the months of operation.
One important factor to consider which the study referred to is that the theoretical conclusion is tough to verify, due to the issue of determining how many stays were actually avoided and for what reasons, because it’s logically impossible to decipher a specific number of homeless stays that would have happened when they did not happen. Another aspect to pay attention to is the data and statistics. Through record data analysis, data that has already been collected from other sources for other purposes is used to address a completely different question. In this study, the researchers collected this already existing data on family composition, meaning how many adults versus children are in a family, and also on the time spent in homeless shelters during operating months and non-operating months. The relatively general statistics gathered worked for the method (or formula) which they used to analyze, however, it only provides a general conclusion. Completely lacking, as the researchers conceded to, were statistics about race, sex, ethnicity, etc. This kind of information would have made it possible to determine other answers, such as why certain families stay longer, or if programs such as Homebase appeal to specific races, which would provide important knowledge in supporting the programs to make them more efficient.
Goodman, S., Messeri, P., O’Flaherty, B. (2014). How Effective Homelessness Prevention Impacts the Length of Shelter Spells. Journal of Housing Economics, 23, 55-62.