Evaluating an Intervention to Prevent Family Homelessness

Betsy Sleath, Ph.D., Principal Investigator

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This project focuses on one of the more vexing and growing social problems of our day, homeless families. Recent studies have shown that when a variety of housing options and clinical and supportive services are made available to homeless individuals, even those with challenging impairments such as severe mental illness or substance abuse disorders can maintain stable housing. In many cases, they may also achieve some level of community re-integration. Although the provision of housing options and services can significantly improve outcomes for homeless individuals, it is unclear whether these same strategies will help homeless families achieve comparable outcomes. The Wake County (North Carolina) Continuum-of-Care Collaborative (Wake CCC) is participating in a multi-site cooperative agreement with the Federal Center for Mental Health Services. The Wake CCC is a cross-section of public and private human-service providers, including Pan Lutheran Ministries of Wake County, the designated grantee and a major provider of homeless services in Raleigh, North Carolina. Wake CCC representatives have developed an improved best-practice service model for homeless women with psychiatric and/or substance abuse disorders who are caring for their families. In the initial, two-year planning phase the Sheps Center, in cooperation with the Wake CCC, coordinating center, Center for Mental Health Services (CMHS) and Center for Substance Abuse Treatment (CSAT), carried out a series of tasks to ensure the development of a service enrichment initiative housed within Pan Lutheran Ministries. During this phase, the Wake CCC developed a model with wrap-around services provided by a strengths-based mentor advocate.

In the current phase of the project, the Sheps center, in cooperation with the Coordinating Centers (Vanderbilt University) and Policy Research Associates, Inc), has begun to implement and evaluate the effectiveness of these services to prevent family homelessness The assessment of these services will include measures of program integrity, housing stability, mental health and substance use outcomes, social outcomes, and the cost of services provided.