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housing was adopted (Culhane, 1992). Similarly, Wong, Culhane, and Kuhn
(1997) found a very low readmission rate (7.6%) among families discharged from
shelter in New York City when they received subsidized housing. Shinn et al.
(1998) found that New York City families who lived in subsidized housing were
less likely to enter shelter in the first place than other families in the public assis-
tance caseload. Further, subsidized housing was very nearly both necessary and
sufficient to stabilize formerly homeless families. Five years after entering shelter,
families who received subsidized housing were slightly more likely to have apart-
ments of their own than were a random sample of the public assistance caseload
who had never been homeless (97% vs. 92%), and the two groups were equally
likely to be stable, defined as having been in one's own apartment without a move
for at least a year (80% in both groups). Very few of the formerly homeless families
received services other than subsidized housing (certainly they were not part of
special case management programs). On the other hand, formerly homeless fami-
lies who did not receive subsidized housing were very unlikely to be stable at the
end of 5 years (38% in own apartment, 18% stable).
Although a variety of factors predicted which families in the public assistance
caseload would enter shelter in the first place, only receipt of subsidized housing
made any substantial contribution to the prediction of stability at follow-up.
Among formerly homeless families, the odds of stability increased 20-fold for
households who received housing subsidies, compared to those who did not.
Factors that were unrelated to stability, in the context of subsidized housing,
included mental illness, substance abuse, health problems, history of incarceration,
education, work history, various features of the respondent's childhood (disruptive
family experiences, growing up in poverty, teen pregnancy), domestic violence,
and strength of personal network, although some of these factors were associated
with initial shelter entry (Shinn et al., 1998).
Thus, solutions to homelessness
need not counteract every "cause." Factors that are easily destabilizing in the infor-
mal or shadow housing market (the varieties of doubling up) are much less critical
when one has a secure place of one's own.
In New York city, it is worth noting, the mechanism of that security was an
arrangement that typically paid families' housing subsidies (and the base rent as
well) directly to landlords. Thus, families could not delay rent payments to meet
other needs. It is not clear whether families would have been as stable 5 years later
if subsidies and base rent payments were more fungible. That experiment has not
been tried. Lindblom (1996, p. 193) suggested additional advantages to voluntary
Shinn, Baumohl, and Hopper
Shinn et al. (1998) looked for, but did not find, evidence of selection bias between those who did
and did not receive subsidized housing. Stojanovic, Weitzman, Shinn, Labay, and Williams (1999)
found that families (in the same study) who left subsidized housing did so primarily because of serious
building problems or safety issues (rats, fire or other disaster, condemnation, or the building's failure to
pass a Section 8 inspection).