Abstract: Examining the Longitudinal Impacts of Residing in a Tiny Home Village Addressing Homelessness (Society for Social Work and Research 26th Annual Conference - Social Work Science for Racial, Social, and Political Justice)

550P Examining the Longitudinal Impacts of Residing in a Tiny Home Village Addressing Homelessness

Saturday, January 15, 2022
Marquis BR Salon 6, ML 2 (Marriott Marquis Washington, DC)
* noted as presenting author
Katie Hoops Calhoun, MSW, Doctoral Student, University of Denver, Denver, CO
Jennifer Wilson, PhD, Senior Research Associate, University of Denver, Denver, CO
Daniel Brisson, PhD, Professor, University of Denver, CO
Background and Purpose: This presentation describes findings from a quasi-experimental study examining a tiny home community in the mountain west providing a novel response to homelessness. Though tiny home villages addressing homelessness are becoming increasingly popular, this relatively new innovation in sheltering has a negligible body of peer-reviewed research on outcomes associated with village residence. Employing a mixed-methods quasi-experimental design, this study describes early-stage individual impacts from an ongoing longitudinal study of residents of a tiny home community addressing homelessness.

Methods: From July 2017 to August 2020, semi-structured interviews were conducted with current and former residents of the tiny home community (n=22), comprising 75% of the village’s history of total residents. Data were collected from tiny home residents at move-in as well as six months, 12 months, 24 months, and 36 months following move-in. Longitudinal quantitative and qualitative data collected among incoming residents were compared against the most recent available data for each individual, averaging just over 18 months post-village entry and ranging from six to 36 months from move-in. Interviews addressed shelter and housing, employment and finances, physical and mental health, and goal setting.

Results: Descriptive statistics show fewer people working at the most recent survey completed (61% to 44%) but a demonstrated increase in the average hourly pay ($12.88 to $15.64). From move-in to the most recent survey completed, residents reported an increased ability to save money (17% to 50%), pay bills (50% to 94%), and pay down debt (17% to 24%). Participants reported an increase in noncash benefits received, including Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP; 53% to 65%), Supplemental Security Income (SSI; 6% to 12%), and Social Security Disability Income (SSDI; 6% to 12%). The average number of times residents reported having their belongings stolen decreased from 1.8 to 0 times at the most recent survey completed. Furthermore, average rates of reported happiness and satisfaction (on a scale of 1 to 5, with 1 being “none of the time” and 5 being “all of the time”) increased (3.3 to 3.6 and 2.8 to 3.3, respectively), while average rates of anxiety, hopelessness, and depression decreased (3.5 to 2.9, 2.7 to 2.2, and 2.8 to 2.6, respectively) from move-in to the most recent survey completed. Residents were also asked to set goals, 47 of which were tracked longitudinally with 47% reported as either completed or significant progress made. Finally, four former residents who participated in the study reported being at their current location for an average of 365 days, and all four described their current housing as long-term.

Conclusions and Implications: This study suggests promising long-term outcomes for unhoused individuals residing in a tiny home community. There will be considerable value in continued collection of data with current and former tiny home residents to understand longitudinal impacts of living in a tiny home village addressing homelessness. Furthermore, this study represents an important ongoing academic-community partnership to inform an emerging innovation in sheltering attempting to meet a growing housing and homelessness crisis with a dignified solution.