Theses Doctoral

Homeless Men in New York City's Public Shelters: A Life Course Perspective

Herman, Daniel B.

Many questions surround the nature of the relationship between homeless individuals' personal attributes, histories and problems and their recent experiences with homelessness, their current level of social and psychological functioning and their need for services. Using data collected in a major needs assessment survey of municipal shelter users in New York City, the study explores the continuities and discontinuities between different phases in the life histories of homeless men aged 28 to 50. Employing factor analysis and multiple regression methods, the study examines associations between a range of disparate variables describing experiences of childhood and adulthood as well as several current status measures. The relationship between these variables and homeless individuals' self-rated service needs is also investigated. The emerging view of the contemporary homeless population as defined by considerable heterogeneity was supported. Four broad life course dimensions (mental illness/substance abuse, childhood deprivation/family disruption, positive adjustment/achievement, delinquency/deviant behavior) were identified and described. Childhood runaway behavior, delinquency and separation from the family were found to be significantly associated with a number of specific adult outcomes and current status measures. Homeless persons' self-ratings of their need for services was found to comprise a coherent factor structure and to be associated with selected life course variables. Policy and practice implications and recommendations for future research are discussed.


More About This Work

Academic Units
Social Work
Thesis Advisors
Struening, Elmer
Fanshel, David
Ph.D., Columbia University
Published Here
May 22, 2015