News and views from the front lines of the Never Another Homeless Veteran campaign. Featuring veterans rights advocates, policy experts, homelessness service providers, and allies in the effort to make sure every veteran has a safe, stable place to call home.

Why Do Some Homeless People Who Are Housed Become Homeless Again?

Written by Liza Doran

In the world of homelessness assistance, housing is the number one priority. As we like to say at the Alliance, housed people aren’t homeless.

But what happens after people exit homelessness to housing? In an ideal world, homelessness should be rare, brief, and non-recurring. Unfortunately, this isn’t always the case. People who have been housed through homeless programs sometimes fall back into homelessness. Fortunately, researchers are working to determine why some households remain stably housed and others don’t.

A study released just last week looked at what happens to families and to individuals after exiting the Supportive Services for Veteran Families (SSVF) program. Researchers examined outcomes for households who received rapid re-housing services and who received prevention services, and they followed up with households both one year and two years after exiting SSVF.

Overall, the results were positive. The vast majority of families and individuals served by SSVF’s rapid re-housing and prevention services remained housed, as you can see from the chart below.

Families Who Remained Housed Individuals Who Remained Housed
RRH Services Received Prevention Services Received RRH Services Received Prevention Services Received
1 Year After SSVF Exit 90.6% 93.5% 84.0% 89.7%
2 Years After SSVF Exit 84.5% 89.1% 73.4% 82.1%

Another way to think about risk of future homelessness is in terms of “hazard rates.”

The hazard rate graphs below show how the risk of homelessness changes over time after SSVF exit. Here we see the risk of homelessness is highest immediately after exit from SSVF for all household types and all service types, but the risk decreases quickly. About six months after SSVF exit, risk of homelessness starts to level off.

Now that we have a sense of the percentage of households who will experience homelessness and the time frame for the highest risk of homelessness, let’s look at what other factors increase risk of homelessness. Researchers examined many variables, but a few factors had the strongest predictive potential for future homelessness:

  • Age. Among individual veterans, those aged 45-54 had the highest risk of homelessness. Amongst veterans in families, those aged 45-61 had the highest risk of homelessness.
  • Exit destination. Though the goal of SSVF is to exit all households to permanent housing, sometimes that doesn’t happen. Households who exited to any destination other than housing were more likely to become homeless in the future.
  • Security deposit assistance. Households (both individuals and families) who received assistance paying a security deposit were at a decreased risk of future homelessness.

The findings from this study are cause for optimism. The vast majority of households who received SSVF prevention or rapid re-housing services were successful in avoiding homelessness two years after they stopped receiving SSVF assistance.

Unfortunately, while not all households who reconnect to housing will remain stably housed, studies like this one are a critical tool in helping providers target services to those who are at an increased risk of future homelessness.

Graphic from "Predictors of Homelessness Among Families and Single Adults After Exit From Homelessness Prevention and Rapid Re-Housing Programs: Evidence From the Department of Veterans Affairs Supportive Services for Veteran Families Program" by Thomas Byrne, Dan Treglia, Dennis P. Culhane, John Kuhn, and Vincent Kane.