VU Mailbox: 90
Ph.D., University of Michigan, Ann Arbor
Professor, Dept. of Human & Organizational Development
Marybeth (Beth) Shinn studies how to prevent and end homelessness and create opportunities for groups that face social exclusion. Her largest current project is a 12-site experiment comparing the success of different strategies to house families experiencing homelessness. With colleagues from Abt Associates she is following 2,300 families for three years to understand how the strategies affect housing stability, self-sufficiency, family preservation, and adult and child well-being. Beth and students also analyzed qualitative interviews with 80 of the families across four sites to understand families’ experiences in the homeless service system, how they make housing decisions, and why so many parents become separated from their children.
Prevention of homelessness requires both that programs be effective and that they go to the “right” people – those for whom they will make the most difference. Targeting may be the harder problem. Thousands of people apply for New York City’s HomeBase homelessness prevention services each year. Shinn and students have developed targeting models that the City has adopted to get services to the people most likely to become homeless without them, and have shown that there are no people too “risky” to serve.
With colleagues at the Urban Institute, Beth is studying whether supported housing can avert child out-of-home placement among families where homelessness contributes to risk. Her role is to develop a model to select the families for whom the intervention can be most helpful. She and students are examining the effectiveness of Alameda County, California’s homelessness prevention programs, and the extent to which homeless interventions affect use of other social services.
Past collaborations with community organizations and research institutes include an experimental study of the Pathways Housing First intervention with adults who experience both chronic homelessness and serious mental illness, a survey of older adults in poverty to understand why some become homeless, an evaluation of New York City's street count, and an experiment to determine whether rapid re-housing with transitional services fostered positive outcomes for children who were homeless with their families.
More broadly, Beth is interested in how social policies and settings influence inclusion and foster capabilities – or people’s freedoms to do and be for disenfranchised groups. She is collaborating with colleagues in Portugal on a study of fostering capabilities for adults with serious mental illnesses. Because understanding and changing the characteristics of settings requires measuring them, she is also examines techniques for ecological assessment. Beth’s goal is to use research to influence social policy and programs. She has done collaborative studies with New York City's Department of Homeless Services, Human Resources Administration, and Department of Health. She participated in State Policy Academies run by the Federal Interagency Council on Homelessness and served on research advisory panels for the New York City Department of Homeless Services, the National Alliance to End Homelessness, and the National Low Income Housing Coalition. In Nashville, she sits on the Healthy Nashville Leadership Council and the “GAPS” committee that determines how federal funds for homelessness are allocated.