Date of Conferral
Public Policy and Administration
While researchers have identified the Housing First model of putting homeless persons into permanent housing as the best means of improving the quality of life for chronically homeless individuals, few studies have examined the perceptions of shelter staff workers on the barriers the homeless face in obtaining and maintaining long-term housing. This case study of 2 homeless shelters in New Jersey examined the relationship that fair and just democratic processes play in supporting or undermining Housing First. Data came from New Jersey's annual Point in Time counts of the number of homeless individuals and families and the causes and service needs of the homeless. Government reports were also analyzed, as well as from semi-structured interviews and focus group interviews with a purposive sample of 14 homeless shelter staff workers. The polarities of democracy model as described by Benet helped identify whether democracy was being served rightly and justly within these homeless communities. Information was analyzed by inductive coding and by identifying themes and patterns that emerged from the interviews. The primary finding of this study was that lack of available housing, lack of resources to gain access to housing, and lack of knowledge of resources that are available for housing acquisition and maintenance plays a role in causing individuals to become and remain chronically homeless. Social change implications include policy recommendations to local, state, and federal legislators to increase accountability in the allocation of funding for housing support and the development of a volunteer case management force to meet the service needs of the chronically homeless.