Rural Issues

Using the Social Ecological Model to examine how homelessness is defined and managed in rural East Tennessee (2016) This research document provides an insightful case study in how rural communities engage and perceive homelessness. Though often viewed as an urban issue, homelessness is pervasive in rural areas due to high poverty rates, lack of affordable housing, and geographical isolation. This publication examines that phenomenon through the lens of a 2014 study of East Tennessean communities conducted by the National HCH Council in collaboration with Vanderbilt University and Cherokee Health Systems. Analyzing the experiences of local consumers, organizational staff, and government officials, this study offers suggestions for how rural communities can improve their management of homeless issues and services.

In Focus: Rural Homelessness (2013) This issue of the In Focus quarterly research review addresses the changing rural landscape, the challenges to identifying the homeless population, the patterns of homelessness, service access and delivery barriers, and promising practices in service delivery in the context of rural settings. A few limitations exist regarding the literature shared, namely the specificity of studies to certain rural communities and some outdated references due to a lack of recent literature on the topic.

Hard to Reach: Rural Homelessness & Health Care (2002) This document summarizes what is known about the causes of rural homelessness and how the experiences of unstably housed people living in rural areas differ from their urban counterparts. In addition, it describes health problems often experienced by rural homeless clients, highlights strategies that homeless service providers are using to meet the challenges these clients present, and lists their recommendations for policy and practice to improve service access and reduce the incidence of rural homelessness. Sources cited in this report and additional resources about rural homelessness in particular states are included in the bibliography.

Hard to Reach: Rural Homelessness & Health Care (2001) This issue of Healing Hands examines obstacles to health care encountered by people who first experience homelessness in small communities and remote rural areas of the United States. The following articles briefly explain the causes of rural homelessness and how unstably housed people in rural areas differ from their urban counterparts. In addition, they highlight strategies that homeless service providers are using to meet the challenges these clients present, and recommendations to improve service access and reduce rural homelessness. Information presented here is excerpted from a more comprehensive analysis of these issues, to be published soon by the National Health Care for the Homeless Council with support from the Bureau of Primary Health Care.

Additional Resources

Rural Continuums of Care (2009) This document developed by the Department of Housing and Urban Development’s Homeless Assistance Programs offers strategies to address barriers to services, issues around client isolation, and working with mainstream providers. The manual offers various service models and strategies for data collection in rural communities.

Rural Homelessness (2007) The paper summarizes what is documented to date about the characteristics of people who are homeless in rural areas and examines whether rural homelessness and the service approaches to address it can be differentiated from urban homelessness. The authors identify gaps in current knowledge about rural homelessness and recommend new directions for research.

Starting a Rural Health Clinic: A How-To Manual (2004) This publication developed by the Health Resources and Services Administration to assist organizations in becoming a certified rural health clinic offers an overview of this federal program, a feasibility analysis, and additional resources.

Estimating Homelessness in Rural Areas: A Step-by-step Guide and Sourcebook of Information and Ideas (2002) Publication by David Robinson of the Centre for Regional Economic and Social Research Sheffield Hallam University which explains in a detailed, yet accessible manner, how to estimate homelessness in rural areas.

Report: The 2001 Virginia Rural Homeless Survey (2001) Report developed by the Center for Housing Research of Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University which shares the process and final report for counting the state’s rural homeless population.

Niches of Homelessness in Rural Nebraska: Bolstering Existing Understandings (1996) Starting on page 67 the publication describes the method for determining homelessness in rural Nebraska.

Abstract (full text available for purchase): Counting the Rural Homeless Population: Methodological Dilemmas (1993) One important product of this National Institute of Mental Health-funded study is the successful adaptation of methods for field research on homelessness in rural settings. This article identifies the design dilemmas and the process issues in rural studies that are applicable to social work research in rural environments.