file0001265520610A recent study of families entering homeless shelters, transitional housing, and supportive housing programs highlighted that a history of trauma is nearly universal among homeless mothers, and presents a challenge for establishing long-term housing stability. The SHIFT Study, conducted in partnership by the Wilson Foundation and the National Center on Family Homelessness, followed 292 families from 48 housing programs in Rochester, Buffalo, Syracuse, and Albany, for a total of 30 months. Major findings include:

  • 93% of the mothers had experienced at least one trauma and 81% had experienced more than one.
  • Adverse childhood experiences (ACEs) among mothers were also common; 79% had experienced at least one ACE and 56% had experienced more than one.
  • Post-traumatic stress disorder and symptoms of major depression were common.
  • Poor child outcomes were predicted by maternal depression.
  • Residential instability at 15-months was predicted by being unemployed, lower education, poor health, and low self-esteem.
  • At 30 months, residential instability was only predicted by low self-esteem and high rates of post-traumatic stress symptoms.

While previous research has documented the high rate of trauma among homeless mothers, the SHIFT Study is the first to show that trauma symptom severity can contribute to long-term housing instability.

To disseminate the findings, the Wilson Foundation held roundtable meetings in each of the four New York communities included in the study. The meetings featured a review of the study’s major findings and a discussion of how to increase and strengthen trauma-informed care within the local service system, and how improve the system’s response to the housing and health needs of homeless mothers and their children.

The National Center for Excellence in Homeless Services co-hosted the Albany roundtable on June 10th, along with the study authors and CARES, Inc. The event was attended by roughly 50 people from the area’s social service agencies and a small number of local community members. Following the event, the Times Union Newspaper wrote an article on homeless children and families in the Capital Region.

To learn more about the SHIFT Study, you can read the final report here.

Blog Post Author: Amanda Aykanian, Research and Project Lead at the National Center

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