Health & Wellness

USU and ABT Present Information on Homeless to Utah Legislators

Utah State University faculty presented an important study on homelessness in Utah to Utah legislators during the 2017 legislative session. On any given night in Salt Lake City there are about 1,000 homeless families. The presentation displayed facts that can help reduce the problem substantively.

USU-Ephraim’s faculty member, Susan Talley, along with Purdue University’s Family Impact Institute, hosted a seminar called “Homelessness and Families.” The seminar was presented by Dr. Samuel Dastrup, a senior analyst at ABT Associates.

Dastrup was part of a team of researchers working on the HUD supported Family Options Study to discover which housing interventions and services are most beneficial to homeless families. The study gathered information from 2,300 homeless families across 12 different communities in the United States, including Salt Lake City.

Families were followed for three years and were randomly assigned to one of four interventions that have been identified as suitable systems of support for family homelessness based on the theories behind the nature of family homelessness. Family well-being was measured in housing stability, family preservation, adult well-being, child well-being and self-sufficiency. 

The study suggests that the current homeless assistance system does not successfully meet the needs of homeless families. The following four interventions were studied. Short term rental subsidies, also known as rapid re-housing, constitute temporary housing subsidies of up to 18 months. Project-based transitional housing, a 24 month, service-intensive, temporary stay at a housing facility. Usual Care, traditional homeless and housing assistance and whatever programs the families can access on their own. And, finally, long-term housing subsidies, such as housing choice vouchers.

While transitional housing and usual care families saw little benefit, families provided with short and long-term rental subsidies saw greater benefits.

Families in short term housing subsidies saw benefits in increased income and food security, fewer school absences and child behavior problems.

Finally, families with access to long-term housing subsidies experienced significant benefits, including: reducing subsequent homelessness by half, reduced child separations, reduced intimate partner violence, reduced school mobility, reduced absences and behavior problems in children and reduced food insecurity.

Results from The Family Options Study suggest notable improvements when families have access to long-term housing subsidies, supporting the view that housing costs exceed the income of poor families, a major contributing factor to family homelessness.

Susan Talley of USU hosted the event. The Family Impact Seminar is held annually during the legislative session at the State Auditorium. The goal of the seminar is to share solid empirical data on topics that affect the well-being of children and families. Each seminar is focused on a current legislative topic, chosen by state legislators. The seminar facilitates learning and discussion in an unbiased way, promoting awareness of the impact of policies on families. 

Family Impact Seminars of Utah are sponsored by Purdue University and Utah State University. For more information, contact Talley at 435-797-5657.

USU Contact: Dana Rhoades,, 437.722.1788

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