Family Options Study: Short-Term Impacts of Housing and Services Interventions for Homeless Families


The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) undertook the Family Options Study to gather evidence about which types of housing and services interventions work best for homeless families. The study compares the effects of three active interventions— permanent housing subsidy (SUB), community-based rapid re-housing (CBRR), and project-based transitional housing (PBTH)—to one another and to the usual care (UC) available to homeless families. SUB, CBRR, and PBTH are distinguished from one another by the duration of housing assistance provided and the type and intensity of social services offered. UC consists of emergency shelter and housing or services that families access without immediate referral to one of the three active interventions.

From September 2010 through January 2012, 2,282 families enrolled in the Family Options Study across 12 communities1 after spending at least 7 days in emergency shelter. After providing informed consent and completing a baseline survey, the families were randomly assigned to one of the three active interventions or to UC. Random assignment yielded groups of families with no systematic differences in baseline characteristics. Families were free to take up their assigned interventions or to make other arrangements, so families used a mix of programs, often including programs other than the type to which they were assigned. Nonetheless, patterns of program use among the groups of families contrasted substantially, and the study provides a strong basis for conclusions about the relative impacts of the interventions on several aspects of family well-being.

The Family Options Study will follow the full set of 2,282 study families for 36 months. The study team conducted short tracking surveys with the families 6, 12, and 27 months after random assignment. The study team also conducted a more extensive followup survey approximately 20 months after random assignment to collect detailed information about family outcomes. Another followup survey will be conducted approximately 36 months after random assignment. The first of the extensive followup surveys achieved a response rate of 81 percent, with 1,857 families responding to the survey.2

This report presents the short-term impacts of the interventions in five domains related to family well-being: (1) housing stability, (2) family preservation, (3) adult well-being, (4) child well-being, and (5) self-sufficiency. The report also describes the relative costs of the interventions based on program use during the first followup period. A subsequent report in 2016 will present impacts on study families 36 months after random assignment along with intervention costs over the longer period.

– Daniel Gubits, Marybeth Shinn, Stephen Bell, Michelle Wood, Samuel Dastrup, Claudia D. Solari, Scott R. Brown, Steven Brown, Lauren Dunton, Winston Lin, Debi McInnis, Jason Rodriguez, Galen Savidge, Brooke E. Spellman, Abt Associates, Inc.

Read the entire study here.