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Education

What is family homelessness?

Family homelessness differs from chronic homelessness. The majority of family members experiencing homelessness are homeless for the first time due to an episode of financial hardship. They do not live on the street, but they also do not sleep in their own beds. These families are living in a friend’s garage, sleeping in their cars, or holding up at a shelter. Nationally, 84% of homeless families consist of a single mother with young children. Almost half of all homeless children are under age six (Who are Homeless Families?). These families are desperate and don’t have anywhere to go.

Families without sustainable housing are much more likely to experience a range of challenges, such as mental health disorders, violence, delayed development in children and family separation. Without a stable home, it is almost impossible for families and children to thrive.

What causes family homelessness?
The biggest causes of family homelessness are job loss, economic hardship and a lack of affordable housing. In San Diego County, there are 95,000 less affordable housing units then are needed. Three in 10 families don’t earn enough to make ends meet. That’s 229,195 families living below self-sufficiency and at risk of becoming homeless.

There are many more complex issues that contribute to family homelessness including chronic illness, substance abuse, domestic violence and other kinds of trauma. Solving family homelessness in San Diego County requires an integrated approach that will assist families with health, education, job and life skills, and access to affordable housing. On a systems level, our social service agencies must be equipped to provide the services necessary to support families in both the short and long term, and facilitate access to sustainable housing. At a policy level, funding must be made available to support these programs and initiatives. A Toolbox to End Family Homelessness provides resources to support work and policy in every area.

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