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Soc Serv Rev. 2010;84(4):597-614.

Exiting shelter: an epidemiological analysis of barriers and facilitators for families.

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  • 1University of Massachusetts.


This study examines the role of individual- and family-level factors in predicting the length of shelter stays for homeless families. Interviews were conducted with all families exiting one of six emergency family shelters in Worcester, Massachusetts, between November 2006, and November 2007. Analyses, using an ordinary least squares regression model, find that families with a positive alcohol or drug screen in the year prior stay 85 days longer than those without a positive screen; families leaving shelter with a housing subsidy stay 66 days longer than those leaving without a subsidy. Demographic factors, education, employment, health, and mental health are not found to predict shelter stay duration. Consistent with prior research, housing resources relate to families' time in shelter; with the exception of a positive substance abuse screen, individual-level problems are not related to their time in shelter. Efforts to expand these resources at the local, state, and national levels are a high priority.

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