Hidden Homeless: The Formerly Doubled Up
A study of the formerly doubled up, or persons who had joined another household and then subsequently became homeless, was conducted by Dr. Ruth Fangmeier. One hundred forty-seven cases of formerly doubled up were identified among clients served by JBFCS homeless projects, and 45 of these clients participated in in-depth interviews on their experiences.
This exploration of doubling up from both the interviews and case records showed the predominance of young, poorly educated females. Doubling up prior to homelessness is a reflection of economic instability. Many of the doubled-up arrangements were brief in duration. Family members, often parents, and generally females, hosted most arrangements although nearly one-third were doubled up with friends. Most arrangements were based on an agreement between guest and host, although many ended in conflict. Despite the breakdown and subsequent failure of the doubled-up arrangement, most guests continued to receive some type of assistance from their hosts after they moved out.
The findings suggest that the length of the double up was related to the guest`s contribution to the household, with the doubled-up arrangement being a transfer of money and services from guest to host in return for shelter. Regardless of why those interviewed doubled-up, all became homeless, and a sizeable portion were homeless one year after service contact ended.
Doubling up was a stressor to guest and host. It disrupted the environment in the household as indicated by the places where guests slept, and the concern about its effect on the entitlement benefits fo household members.
Social service providers should recognize the entire doubled-up household as the 'client`. The management of the stress caused by doubling up is an area for clinical intervention. Attention to the difficulties faced by hosts as well as guests might make the doubled-up arrangement less stressful. Enhancements might include financial incentives for hosts such as tax credits, rent credits, monies to purchase needed household goods, utility and goods vouchers, and space modification.
This study was funded by the New York State Department of Social Services, Local Initiative Grant to JBFCS.