Approximately 3.5 million youth experience homelessness (YEH) in the United States. Furthermore, experiencing prolonged homelessness at young age may have adverse consequences for YEH’s future development, health, and mental health outcomes. Therefore, recent efforts to address youth homelessness focus on assisting YEH to exit homelessness as quickly as possible via various types of housing programs. Despite established efficacy in addressing youth homelessness, permanent supportive housing (PSH) are resource intensive, and thus are limited in numbers, and are prioritized to high vulnerability YEH. Rapid re-housing programs (i.e., temporary supportive housing) may be a promising less costly alternative for YEH to exit homelessness. Previous literature indicates that YEH are likely to achieve stable homelessness exits via RRH, however, research on YEH’s wait time (i.e., time between housing eligibility assessment and RRH entry) remains scarce. Therefore, the current study aims to document the duration of RRH wait times and potential disparities in RRH waiting periods.
The current study used the administrative homelessness management information system (HMIS) data collected from 16 communities across the US between January 1, 2015 to May 1, 2017 (n=10902) to gain greater understanding about RRH wait times among YEH. Competing risk survival analysis was used to investigate potential disparities (i.e., race and ethnicity, gender, rurality, sexual orientation, and previous homelessness condition) in RRH wait time among YEH, while at the same time taking other competing homelessness exits into consideration (e.g., family reunification, PSH). The event of interest in this study was exiting homelessness via RRH. YEH who had never exited homelessness by the dataset conclusion date and YEH who have lost in the homeless service system follow-up were censored in the analysis, as the event of interest were not observed among these youth.
Over 26 percent of YEH exited homelessness via RRH making RRH the most prominent homelessness exit for YEH. The average wait time for YEH receiving RRH is around 131.2 days (SD=79.9). However, over 30 percent of YEH remained in the system without ever exiting homelessness via any types of venue (e.g., family reunification, PSH, RRH), with another 10 percent lost contact within the system. The multivariate competing risk survival analysis results indicated that YEH who were minors (17 years old or younger), in rural communities, and that had not been heavily engaged in homeless services were less likely to exit homelessness via RRH overtime when taking other exits into account.
Conclusions and Implications:
Our study suggests that RRH is the most common homelessness exit for YEH. However, with high percentage of youth pending a homelessness exit, and the adverse impacts prolonged homelessness may have on youth, expanding RRH provision may be a promising strategy to counter homelessness among youth in a timely manner. This study also highlights potential disparities that need to be accounted for (e.g., RRH for minors and RRH in rural communities) when building RRH capacities within communities in order to address youth homelessness locally.