Introduction: Despite the common public image of homelessness (read: a single “vagrant” person), families with children represent one-third of the homeless population—an especially-serious social problem since family homelessness has long-term negative impacts on two generations simultaneously. This interdisciplinary study examined the complexities of family homelessness in Fort Worth, Texas.

Methods: A literature review outlined pathways into family homelessness, shared experiences, and common intervention strategies. An original qualitative study followed, employing a phenomenological approach to interview families in a local rapid-rehousing program. Open-ended questions allowed free descriptions of personal realities. Audio-recorded responses were analyzed for relevant themes, commonalities, and variations.

Results: Findings suggested that Fort Worth families’ pathways into homelessness are consistent with the “life shock theory,” whereby those already financially strained experience compounding stresses suddenly, leading to homelessness. The study found local and national experiences to be similar; however, it was limited by a convenience sample exclusively comprised of women nearing a housing goal, potentially coloring their outlooks. Finally, the study raised the question of whether rapidly rehoused Fort Worth families are well-positioned for stability.

Conclusion: The similarity of participants’ concerns pre- and post-homelessness suggested that some families may transition to a status still “at risk” rather than “stably housed.” Considered in the context of previous research, findings supported further interdisciplinary inquiry into how longer-term, post-housing support might promote housing stability.