Reconnecting Homeless Individuals and Families to the Community
Homeless people are, by definition, isolated from mainstream society. They lack stable housing, and often lack connections with jobs, families, and communities. This paper summarizes what we know about reconnecting homeless people and individuals into the community and in turn fostering self-sufficiency, including improving their residential stability and employability, and reuniting them with family and friends.
Much has been learned in recent years about how to connect homeless people with stable housing. There have been several major housing initiatives and studies, the majority demonstrating that when homeless people obtain housing with appropriate supports—even those with multiple and severe problems—most stay stably housed. Furthermore, housing is best offered as the first step toward greater reconnection. Much less attention has been placed on testing ways to reconnect homeless people into the job market, with mixed results. The relative success of more comprehensive programs compared to approaches that concentrate only on employment suggests the need for efforts that integrate support services, housing, and job training and development services. Finally, although research continues to show that homeless people have few ties with families and friends, there have been no programs or efforts explicitly designed to improve the social capital of homeless individuals.
In addition to reviewing what is known in each area, this paper discusses the barriers and challenges that continue to challenge efforts to reconnect people back into our communities. The paper concludes with a discussion of the implications of our knowledge for policy, practice, and research. (Authors)
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