A New Study Will Examine a System Alignment Approach to Eliminate Homelessness Experienced by Fathers in Atlanta

Systems for Action, a national program office of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, is engaging The Morehouse School of Medicine Prevention Research Center and Redemption & Advancement Alliance, Inc. in a one-year, $100,000 study, Research to Understand Systems for Housing (RUSH), to examine the feasibility and acceptability of an adapted system alignment approach with medical, public health, and social service partners to better serve fathers experiencing homelessness in Atlanta.

Morehouse School of Medicine Assistant Professor, Latrice Rollins, PhD, MSW, and Thomas Cotton, Founder and CEO of Redemption & Advancement Alliance, Inc., are leading this project. Rollins and Cotton have collaborated on projects for about six years. The urgency to address homelessness among fathers arose from their work together on a community initiative called Fathers Matter ATL, in which Rollins serves as a convener, and Cotton serves as a leader of Fathers Matter ATL’s Addressing Mass Incarceration Committee.  Cotton shared, “As we began the work with fathers through the Addressing Mass Incarceration Committee, we found that placing fathers in emergency housing was a major challenge. A single father with an infant child reached out to one of our partners for support for housing. We began to reach out to our normal network resources for housing, and we couldn’t find immediate emergency housing.  The RUSH study will help us to understand better how we can support fathers dealing with this issue.”

While it is known that most of the homeless population are men, it is less known that 41% of men who are experiencing homelessness are in fact parents and only about 16% of sheltered families include a father. Fathers often are not allowed in shelters, as most are for women with children. Therefore, the family is often separated. Homelessness among single-father families is also a growing phenomenon in our society. Many single fathers with children have a difficult time finding shelters that take men with children and those who do accommodate them are typically at capacity. Further, programs that offer more permanent housing solutions for fathers and families are limited.

Homelessness is a particularly complex issue that requires a multifaceted response if it is to be efficiently and successfully resolved for fathers, children, and families. Single-father families or two-parent families who do not have a home have become a complex issue, and this complexity can be attributed to the lack of accessible services and lack of coordination among shelters, organizations, and government agencies to help families in need. Fragmented systems of care and siloed data infrastructures are barriers to research, coordination of care, allocation of resources, and public health planning.

The system alignment approach that is being examined is the Functional Zero approach. Functional Zero is a person-centered and data-driven approach. To date, seven communities have achieved Functional Zero for veterans’ homelessness, and four communities functionally end chronic homelessness as part of a national end homelessness campaign known as ‘Built for Zero.’ The Functional Zero approach has been particularly successful because the model is founded on shared direction, ownership, and testing of actions to end homelessness. The Functional Zero approach starts with knowing the names and needs of every person experiencing homelessness and then working to ensure that the homelessness response system places more people into secure housing than are entering the system each month.

“Our goal with this pilot study is to assess the current homelessness response system and identify things that are working and not for our fathers and medical, social service, and public health partners in addressing this issue, and ultimately work together, leveraging our collective resources, to ensure positive outcomes for all families experiencing homelessness, especially fathers of color, “ said Rollins. 

A webinar introducing the RUSH project was held on May 31st. View recording HERE.

About Systems for Action

Systems for Action is a national program of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation that aims to discover and apply new evidence about aligning the delivery and financing systems supporting a Culture of Health.

About Morehouse School of Medicine

Founded in 1975, Morehouse School of Medicine (MSM) is among the nation's leading educators of primary care physicians, biomedical scientists, and public health professionals. An independent and private historically-Black medical school, MSM was recognized by the Annals of Internal Medicine as the nation's number one medical school in fulfilling a social mission—the creation and advancement of health equity. Morehouse School of Medicine's faculty and alumni are noted for excellence in teaching, research, and public policy, as well as exceptional patient care. MSM is accredited by the Commission on Colleges of the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools to award doctoral and master's degrees. To learn more about programs and donate today, please visit www.msm.edu or call 404-752-1500.

About Morehouse School of Medicine Prevention Research Center

The mission of the Morehouse School of Medicine (MSM) Prevention Research Center (PRC) is to advance scientific knowledge in the field of prevention in African American and other minority communities and to disseminate new information and strategies of prevention. Since its inception, MSM PRC has worked cooperatively with the communities in which its research is being conducted. Learn more: https://www.msm.edu/Research/research_centersandinstitutes/PRC/index.php

About Redemption & Advancement Alliance

Redemption & Advancement Alliance's mission is to disrupt the cycles of incarceration and poverty by empowering people impacted by the justice system, income inequality gaps, and low opportunity rates, by providing support to create the blueprint to overcome their barriers and being a strong community resource. Learn more: https://www.redeem-advance.org/

About Fathers Matter ATL

In 2021, a multi-sector team of leaders in the community, academia, and health and human services joined together to promote and support father engagement in metro Atlanta and beyond. Learn more: https://www.fathersmatteratl.com/