The Family Options Study


The Family Options Study earlier known as The Impact of Housing and Services Interventions on Homeless Families, is an experimental study of family homelessness that is being funded by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD). Between September 2010 and January 2012, 2,307 homeless families across twelve sites enrolled into the study and were randomly assigned to one of four interventions: 1) project-based transitional housing, 2) community-based rapid re-housing, 3) subsidy only, or 4) usual care. Families were interviewed at baseline (entry/random assignment), are being tracked for 18 months after intervention, and will be interviewed again 18 months after random assignment. The follow-up survey period will begin in June 2012. The overall goal of the study is to determine which interventions work best to promote housing stability, family preservation, child well-being, adult well-being, and self-sufficiency for homeless families. The Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (NICHD) has funded the Principal Investigator, Mary Beth Shinn, to conduct a companion study that is supporting data collection on a second focal child in each family, as well as direct child and parent observations in the home. Please see the project overview document on this site for additional details about the study, including a list of the participating communities.

The follow-up survey period has recently begun, and presents several exciting opportunities for collaboration and partnership going forward. To learn more about the study, please contact Anne Fletcher, in HUD's Office of Policy Development & Research (

Interim Report

This report presents results from the early implementation of the study of the Impact of Housing and Services Interventions for Homeless Families, referred to here as the Family Options Study. The Family Options Study is being sponsored by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) to measure the relative impacts of four interventions commonly employed within local communities to help families experiencing homelessness. The study compares the impacts of: community-based rapid re-housing (CBRR), project-based transitional housing (PBTH), permanent housing subsidies (SUB), and the usual care (UC) emergency shelter system in 12 communities.

This interim report describes the baseline characteristics of the families enrolled in the study and the housing and services interventions the families were offered. The report also describes the study’s design and implementation and provides preliminary information about the extent to which families have enrolled in the assigned interventions. A subsequent document (in 2014) will report on the impacts of the four interventions and their relative costs. The impact analysis will use data collected from a survey of families 18 months after random assignment as well as administrative data measuring receipt of HUD assistance and data on returns to shelter from local Homeless Management Information Systems (HMIS). The 18-month follow-up survey began in July 2012 and will continue through September 2013. The research team will also prepare a series of short issue briefs to discuss additional findings that may be relevant to policymakers, practitioners, and researchers.

Download the Interim Report

Data Collection and Analysis Plan

The objective of the Family Options Study is to provide research evidence to help federal policymakers, community planners, and local practitioners make sound decisions about the best ways to address homelessness among families. The study will compare four combinations of housing and service interventions for homeless families who have been in emergency shelters for at least seven days. The study is conducted as a rigorous, multi-site experiment, to determine what interventions work best to promote family stability and well-being. Within the limits of statistical power, the study will also analyze what types of families benefit most from each intervention. The four interventions studied are:

  • Permanent Housing Subsidy (SUB). The permanent subsidy is typically in the form of a Housing Choice Voucher, without dedicated supportive services.
  • Project-Based Transitional Housing (PBTH). This intervention features temporary housing assistance offered for up to 24 months (with average expected length of stay of 6 to 12 months) in transitional housing facilities combined with supportive services.
  • Community-Based Rapid Re-housing (CBRR). CBRR provides temporary rental assistance for 2 to 6 months (potentially renewable for periods up to 18 months) in conventional, private-market housing, with limited, housing-focused services.
  • Usual Care (UC). UC includes any additional time spent in emergency shelters and the services that people would normally access on their own from shelter in the absence of these other interventions.

Download the Data Collection and Analysis Plan

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