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Place-based subsidies. Another approach would select individuals on the basis
of the neighborhoods in which they live. Culhane et al. (1996) showed that in Phila-
delphia and New York city, between three-fifths and two-thirds of families entering
shelter over an extended period came from identifiable clusters of census tracts.
Rates of shelter admission were strongly related to an area's rates of poor, African
American, and female-headed households with young children and with rates of
particularly bad housing conditions. In Washington, D.C., rates of female-headed
households, especially those with preschool children, and unemployed persons
were found to be important.
Culhane and Lee (1997) suggested that such analyses
make it possible to bring critical services to at-risk families before they enter or even
apply for shelter, perhaps through indicated prevention strategies based on assess-
ment of individual needs within specified neighborhoods.
The same types of strategies considered under the rubric of universal preven-
tion could usefully be applied as selected prevention strategies to specific neigh-
borhoods most in need, as judged by the incidence of shelter entry in those
neighborhoods. Prevention efforts might include community development, hous-
ing construction or rehabilitation, efforts to maintain existing housing stock, job
development and training programs, child care services that permit young mothers
to take jobs, and efforts to increase social capital.
Such strategies might well avert
shelter entry for many, although no research currently exists on the consequences
of either selected or indicated neighborhood-based prevention strategies for home-
lessness. Surely they are worthy of exploration.
Secondary Prevention: Resolving Current Homelessness
There is some evidence that subsidized housing, even without other services,
is likely to prevent homelessness for most families. In Philadelphia, the numbers of
families admitted to shelter who had been in shelter previously dropped from 50%
in 1987 to less than 10% in 1990 after a policy of placing families in subsidized
The Prevention of Homelessness Revisited
Of course, many of these factors, considered as individual characteristics, also predict entry into
shelter, and their design (using census data to characterize neighborhoods with high rates of shelter
entry) did not permit the authors to determine to what extent neighborhood characteristics predicted
shelter entry above and beyond individual characteristics. Figures in the article do not permit calcula-
tion of the proportions of families in these high-risk areas that entered shelter.
Social capital is defined in a variety of ways, but however defined, it is not a characteristic of
individuals but of collectivities, whether personal networks or geographically bounded communities.
As Coleman (1988, p. S98) phrased it: "Unlike other forms of capital [human and financial], social
capital inheres in the structure of relations between actors and among actors. It is not lodged either in the
actors themselves or in physical implements of production." Put another way, social capital "refers to
the stocks of social trust, norms, and [formal and informal] networks that people can draw upon in order
to solve common problems" (Lang & Hornburg, 1998, p. 4). Social capital, then, is implicated in the
distribution of material resources and knowledge and the specific and diffuse, formal and informal in-
fluences gathered under the rubric of social control. Social capital is the lifeblood of communities that
are both supportive and restraining; it promotes individual well-being and tolerable social order.