According to the National Alliance to End Homelessness, families experiencing homelessness are similar to other, housed families living in poverty. In fact, many poor families—homeless or not—share similar characteristics: they are usually headed by a single woman with limited education; are usually young; and have high rates of domestic violence and mental illness.

Some families living in poverty fall into homelessness, usually due to some unforeseen financial challenge, such as a death in the family, a lost job, or an unexpected bill, creating a situation where the family cannot maintain housing.

Fortunately, homelessness among families is typically not a long-term experience. About 75% of families who enter shelter are able to quickly exit with little or no assistance, and never return. Some families, however, require more intensive assistance.

One of the most important strategies for lifting families from homelessness is rapid re-housing. The more quickly families are connected with permanent housing, the more quickly their homelessness can be solved and their lives can return to relative stability. Similarly, prevention strategies—in the form of cash assistance, housing subsidies, and other services—can avert homelessness before it starts.