Katherine E. Marçal (Social Work) published an article, "Understanding Mechanisms Driving Family Homeless Shelter Use and Child Mental Health," in Journal of Social Service Research. This community-based system dynamics study explored barriers to timely, successful shelter exit and feedback mechanisms driving length of stay and child mental health risk. Group model building — a participatory systems science tool — and key informant interviews were conducted with clients (N = 37) and staff (N = 6) in three family homeless shelters in a Midwestern region. Qualitative content analysis with emergent coding identified key themes feedback loops. Findings indicated overcrowding delayed successful shelter exit; longer stays exacerbated crowding and stress in a vicious cycle. Furthermore, longer stays exacerbated child risk for mental disorder both directly and indirectly via crowding and caregiver stress. Capacity constraints limited families served, while contributing to ongoing unmet need.
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