Assessment of Homeless Families

Assessment lies at the core of the work with homeless families. To provide the best service possible, providers must determine what families need. When done too narrowly, assessments only capture a small piece of a larger puzzle; done too broadly, assessments may not accurately and reliably capture the information needed to guide effective practice.

DeCandia, 2015

Why Assess?

Research indicates that the majority of families experiencing homelessness share three key features: 1) single parenting for racially diverse mothers; 2) high rates of traumatic stress and major depression, and; 3) developmental concerns for the children. Although single father and two parent households entering shelter has increased, the data overwhelmingly indicate that homelessness among families is primarily a problem of inequity that disproportionately affects low-income, racially diverse, single mothers.

The science of risk indicates that these risk factors can impact brain development and effect health, behavior, and well-being. When children and adults do not receive intervention and support, the consequences can be life-long. When layered on experiences of poverty and racial, gender, and economic inequities, the impact is magnified.

Three known risk factors for homeless families

  1. Near universal experiences of lifetime trauma and elevated rates of PTSD for homeless mothers.
  2. Extremely high rates of maternal depression.
  3. Developmental and behavioral health concerns for homeless children.

Research also indicates that 80% of homeless families require housing and supportive services to address trauma, mental health, and child development issues. This evidence supports the need for comprehensive assessments of homeless families that are family centered, trauma-informed, and evidence based.

Comprehensive, Family Centered, & Trauma-informed

Effective solutions to reduce family homelessness and lift families out of poverty must address a myriad of structural, individual, and sociocultural influences. This requires a shift away from an adult focused, single generation model, to a two generation, family-centered approach that is trauma-informed. The goal of services is to:

  1. Enhance and strengthen parenting skills
  2. Build economic self-sufficiency
  3. Address health or mental health needs for all family members.

In family-centered assessments, the needs of all family members are considered. Adults are viewed as parents first. Child development is assessed in relation to the parent’s functioning. In families with young children, a parent’s desires and wishes for the family guide the process.

Artemis Assessment Protocol

Artemis Associates provides consultation on agency intake and assessment protocols for homeless families. We will conduct a thorough document review and analysis of currently used forms and tools and provide concrete, practical recommendations for adapting tools. We work with you to adapt, modify, and update existing forms based on recommendations provided. Finally, we will guide you in how to supplement assessments with standardized screening measures. This kind of data supports more targeted service delivery and better outcomes.

See the Introduction to the Family Assessment here.

Samples of Our Work

Artemis Associates conducted a comprehensive review of Bridge of Hope’s assessment documents and then worked in partnership with the team to adapt the existing protocol to incorporate the most up to date evidence on the needs of families experiencing homelessness. We did this while maintaining Bridge of Hope’s unique focus on spiritual development.

The Bridge of Hope protocol is now a comprehensive report in line with the follows the model laid out in the Service Matter report. The model was presented at the 2017 annual conference, and trained staff on implementing the protocol and using screening instruments at the 2018 conference.

Charlotte Family Housing

Carmela DeCandia is thoughtfully “disrupting” the homeless industry that far too frequently focuses on bricks and mortar solutions to homelessness, to the exclusion of the critical role of supportive services. With a surgeon like precision and spot on evidence- based information, Dr. DeCandia’s is changing the narrative of how providers address family homelessness. Charlotte Family Housing was fortunate to engage Dr. DeCandia as a consultant in 2016/17. Her work was predictably impactful to our organization, particularly as it relates to our client assessment and intake. We will gladly engage her in future work and wholeheartedly recommend Artemis Associates to other providers.

Stephen L. Smith, Esq., Executive Director, 2017
Charlotte Family Housing, Charlotte, NC