How TANF Agencies Support Families Experiencing Homelessness, 2017 - 2021

​​​​The Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) program is a key program for supporting self-sufficiency among low-income families, including those currently experiencing or at-risk of homelessness. In 2013, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ (HHS) Administration for Children and Families (ACF), in recognition of the integral role TANF can play in family stability, released an Information Memorandum, “Use of TANF Funds to Serve Homeless Families and Families at Risk of Experiencing Homelessness” to encourage TANF agencies to identify and implement approaches to better assist these families.

As a block grant program, TANF gives wide latitude for state and local innovation in serving eligible populations. This project will assist ACF in understanding the extent to which TANF agencies across the country are using TANF funds to serve and support families experiencing or at-risk of homelessness. It also will document the approaches and strategies used by TANF agencies to serve these families.

The project will include:

  • TANF Document Review. This study conducted a systematic review of 25 state and territory TANF agencies’ publicly available plans and policy documents. Using this data, the project team summarized each state’s plans, policies, and processes to address family homelessness using TANF funding.
  • TANF Administrator Survey. Abt Associates administered an online survey to 54 state and territory TANF administrators as well as a selection of 150 county or local TANF administrators. The survey collected information about the agencies’ overall philosophies toward addressing family homelessness and the extent to which TANF funds, assessments, tools, additional services, and partners are used in these efforts.
  • Site visits to TANF agencies. The study team was scheduled to visit five purposefully selected TANF agencies. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, these site visits took place virtually in fall 2020. The project staff conducted interviews with TANF office staff, observed orientation or intake sessions with clients, and interviewed representatives from relevant homelessness organization partners, including Continuums of Care.

The project launched in September 2017 and is conducted by Abt Associates in partnership with MEF Associates.

Point(s) of contact: Girley Wright and Lauren Deutsch.

This study is registered on the Open Science Framework under the title How TANF Agencies Support Families Experiencing Homelessness Visit disclaimer page .

Information collections related to this project have been reviewed and approved by the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs under OMB #0970-0524. Related materials are available at the information collection page on Visit disclaimer page .

The most currently approved documents are accessible by clicking on the ICR Ref. No. with the most recent conclusion date. To access the information collections (E.g. interviews, surveys, protocols), click on View Information Collection (IC) List. Click on View Supporting Statement and Other Documents to access other supplementary documents.

Related Resources

This brief presents the methods TANF agencies use to identify families experiencing homelessness, the extent to which agencies use TANF funds to provide housing services to families experiencing or at-risk of experiencing homelessness, and what organizations TANF agencies partner with to provide housing assistance.