Date of Award

Fall 2010

Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Counseling & Human Services



Committee Director

Tim Grothaus

Committee Member

Danica G. Hays

Committee Member

Tammi Milliken


Children who experience homelessness have an increased risk for negative outcomes in several developmental areas (Bucker, 2008). While there are numerous programs that hope to mediate these and other risks by offering services to families experiencing homelessness, there is a paucity of research that addresses how children's psychosocial needs are being addressed in existing programs (Gewirtz, Hart-Shegos, & Medhanie, 2008). In addition, there is also a lack of research which represents the children's and parents' perspectives and experiences in supportive housing programs, such as transitional and permanent supportive housing, or in-home case management programs. With this phenomenological qualitative study, I attempted to capture the previously disenfranchised voices of the children and their families who are affected by the policy decisions and programs currently being implemented by agencies serving families experiencing homelessness. More specifically, I explored the experiences of children whose families were receiving services via programs designed after either the continuum of care philosophy, which includes transitional and permanent supportive housing emphases, or the housing first philosophy, which is an in-home case management program. It is hoped that this in-depth examination of the experiences of 13 children, complemented by an investigation of their parents' perceptions, may help inform the design and evaluation of programs that serve homeless families.

Data analysis revealed three super-ordinate themes concerning the children's experiences. The first super-ordinate theme involved contextual factors such as the families' residential stability, maternal factors, family composition, situational and family stressors, parenting styles, friends, and the children's own self motivation. The second super-ordinate theme that emerged included the participants' perceptions regarding the benefits of the agency's programs. One theme under this super-ordinate theme included the participants' perceptions that the program provided resources to their children that parents believed they could not provide themselves. A second theme was the participants' belief that the children experienced improved psychosocial outcomes. The final theme emerging in this super-ordinate theme was the perception that the program provided opportunities for exposure to positive new experiences for the children. The third super-ordinate theme involved the participants' evaluation of the program in which they were participating. The themes in this area included the importance of the relationships in the program, positive aspects such meeting the needs of the families, and the changes that the participants desired for the program.