Homelessness in Ottawa County Michigan: The 'Gap' Population

35 Pages Posted: 2 Aug 2011

Date Written: May 2011


Homelessness has gained increasing attention since the 1980s in the United States. And the numbers of individuals and families experiencing homelessness are growing, with a 20,000 person, or 3% increase, from 2008 through 2009 (“State of Homelessness,” 2011). In spite of persistent investigation and activism on how to prevent and end homelessness, there is not agreement on what causes homelessness or how to stop it (McNamara, 2009). What is apparent, however, is that the homeless population is not homogenous. Therefore, the standard models of service, whether from governmental or non-governmental organizations (NGOs), end up neglecting the needs of portions of the population of people who face homelessness. Governmental and non-governmental service providers have recognized the existence of the unique sub-populations of people who are homeless and are attempting to understand and meet the needs of people outside the prevailing understanding of homelessness. This project works with a collaborative of such service providers through a multiple methodological approach to generate better understanding on the two key areas necessary to create models of service for people who are in the “gap” subsector of the homeless population. First, investigation was undertake to learn systematically who is included in the "gap" population among the homeless community, or, in other words, what traits those who continue to cycle in and out of homelessness, and thus are part of this "gap" population, share. Secondly, the project explores what organizations are currently serving these people, and how are they doing so. In other words, this project also ask what are the trends or practices that exist nationally and locally for serving people who fall into this category of homelessness? Findings suggest central traits including mental illness, substance abuse and a history of incarceration as factors spanning members of the “gap” population. Though there are caveats and practices to be avoided, these people are surviving or even thriving through the service primarily of faith-based non-governmental organizations, unfettered by the policy and funding constraints of governmental entities.

Keywords: homelessness, policy, mental illness, substance abuse, incarceration

JEL Classification: I30, I38, O22

Suggested Citation

Beard, Virginia, Homelessness in Ottawa County Michigan: The 'Gap' Population (May 2011). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=1903727 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.1903727

Virginia Beard (Contact Author)

Hope College ( email )

United States
6163957545 (Phone)

HOME PAGE: http://www.hope.edu

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