Housing Stability & Health

For children experiencing homelessness, the health risks can be very severe.

 

• Homeless children are more likely than their housed, low-income peers to be hospitalized, have delayed immunizations and high lead levels in their blood. They have high rates of developmental delays, emotional and behavioral difficulties, and a myriad of problems associated with high stress levels. To compound these problems, studies indicate that the majority of homeless children have witnessed or been the victim of violence or trauma. 

 

• Research studies show that at least one in three homeless children in New York City suffered from asthma between 1998 and 2002, and that 59 percent of those had been to an emergency room for their symptoms in the previous year.35,36,37 Affordable housing can function as a "vaccine" - contributing to positive health outcomes by providing stability and freeing up resources for food and health care expenditures.

 

• With access to affordable housing, families have to make fewer trade-offs between paying for primary health care or housing. Studies have shown that families living in affordable housing are able to dedicate more than twice as much of their income to health care and insurance, and are significantly less likely to forgo needed doctor’s visits and medications due to a lack of money.

 

• A study by Children’s Health Watch found that subsidized housing “protects” children from food insecurity and other health risks. Compared to similar wait-listed families, children living in subsidized housing had a 35 percent greater chance of being classified as a "well" child, 28 percent lower risk of being seriously underweight, and 19 percent lower risk of being food insecure than children in families wait-listed for subsidized housing (see below).40

 

• Subsidized housing may also contribute to improved health when its location enables low-income families to access higher opportunity neighborhoods. A recent evaluation of the Moving to Opportunity (MTO) program has expanded researchers’ understanding of these effects through a large, rigorous study of housing voucher recipients. Although the overall results of this study were mixed, researchers did find that moving to lower-cost housing in high opportunity neighborhoods resulted in improved physical and mental health outcomes, particularly for low-income women and their adolescent daughters.