Panel Paper: Family Options Study: How Homeless Families Use Housing Choice Vouchers

Friday, November 3, 2017
Wright (Hyatt Regency Chicago)

*Names in bold indicate Presenter

Claudia D. Solari and Jill Khadduri, Abt Associates, Inc.

The Family Options Study was designed to gather evidence about which types of housing and services interventions work best for homeless families. The study compares the effects of three active interventions—permanent housing subsidy, community-based rapid re-housing, and project-based transitional housing—to one another and to the usual care available to homeless families. The treatment groups distinguish from one another by the duration of housing assistance provided and the type and intensity of social services offered. Most families assigned to the permanent housing subsidy received priority access to a Housing Choice Voucher (HCV). The Family Options Study found that families with priority access to a voucher leased up housing units with voucher subsidies at high rates, and that priority access to a voucher reduced families’ returns to homelessness and had positive impacts in other areas of family well-being.

This paper analyzes data from the first 20 months of the Family Options Study to describe how homeless families used HCV. The data are based on six different sources–enrollment verification data, two tracking surveys (6-month and 12-month), the follow-up survey (18-month), and two sources of administrative data (HMIS and PIC/TRACS). These data were combined to create a housing program history for homeless families. The program usage data contain information about housing program use for every month starting at the date of random assignment through the date of the adult survey. This analysis relies heavily on the program usage data to understand how families navigate homeless housing assistance programs to reach housing choice voucher assistance.

With these unique data on homeless families, we are able to address a number of questions. What housing program pathways did homeless families traverse before leasing up with a voucher? How long did homeless families take to use a voucher after being in emergency shelter? What family characteristics predict voucher lease up? How do these outcomes vary for those families given priority access to a voucher compared to those who were not? Do we find site-specific variation in the outcomes?