The American Community Survey (ACS) is a yearly assessment administered by the U.S. Census Bureau, gathering in-depth information concerning the living conditions of roughly 3.5 million households across the United States. The ACS helps describe changes in communities through demographic, social, economic, and housing characteristic data.

The ACS does not directly ask whether individuals staying in a particular household are experiencing homelessness, but it provides information that can be used to estimate those temporarily staying with others and provide a proxy measure for this form of homelessness.

CCH identifies poor individuals and families—at or below 125% of the federal poverty level—as homeless when they fall outside of the conventional household composition and cannot afford to live in housing of their own or formally contribute to housing costs. The project team recognizes that people share housing for many reasons that are sometimes the norm. Young adult children and grandchildren often remain at home through their early twenties. Similarly, there may be non-economic reasons for elderly relatives to stay with family members. The project team worked alongside people with lived experience to determine what living situations may be outside of typical home-sharing circumstances.

CCH worked in collaboration with Heartland Alliance Social IMPACT Research Center and Vanderbilt University to refine what it means to temporarily stay with others and develop the programming code to produce these estimates. The user-friendly automation will allow for anyone to estimate those temporarily staying with others in geographic areas with a population larger than 65,000. By downloading publicly available data and copying it into a programmed Microsoft Excel spreadsheet, general estimates can be produced instantaneously. These findings can be manipulated in RStudio statistical software to describe relationships between this form of homelessness and enrollment in school, public benefits, and health insurance, among other data collected by the U.S. Census Bureau. This methodology could provide one of the most comprehensive looks homelessness to date, more accurately reflecting the true scope of the problem.

Are you interested in completing a similar estimate for another city? Contact us.