The Why and the Who of Family Homelessness

  • John C. Buckner


This chapter provides a structural explanation of the problem of family homelessness that draws from population-based public health and epidemiologic principles. A “simplifying model,” or metaphor, is used to explain homelessness from a top-down, macro-perspective. The metaphor fosters an understanding of the root causes of homelessness and distinguishes these causal factors from the attributes of individuals and families who have become homeless. Specifically, the game of musical chairs is used as a metaphor to aid in understanding why homelessness exists as a social problem and who is most vulnerable to becoming homeless. Risk and protective factors for homelessness are discussed. Policy implications of the metaphor for lowering the incidence and prevalence of family homelessness—an extremely complex social and structural challenge—are provided. It is argued that the structural imbalance between affordable housing supply and demand must be addressed through an increase in the supply of housing. Furthermore, addressing the health, mental health, and related service needs of homeless individuals and families can be important in shortening the duration of an episode as well as lowering the reoccurrence rate of homelessness. Such service-based interventions can be important in improving the quality of life of persons, both when they are homeless and once rehoused. In addition, policy makers, researchers, and advocates must systematically consider the base population at risk of family homelessness and alleviate pressures emanating from insufficient incomes that make existing housing units unaffordable to many families.


Severe Mental Illness Housing Unit Affordable Housing Housing Supply Homeless Woman 
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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  • John C. Buckner
    • 1
  1. 1.Children’s HospitalBostonUSA

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