How TANF Agencies Support Families Experiencing Homelessness, 2017 - 2020

Project Overview

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 HHS 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 will conduct a systematic review of 25 state and territory TANF agencies’ publically available plans and policy documents. Using this data, the project team will summarize each state’s plans, policies, and processes to address family homelessness using TANF funding.
  • TANF Administrator Survey. Abt Associates will administer an online survey to all state and territory TANF agencies as well as a selection of county TANF administrators. The survey will collect 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 will visit five purposefully selected TANF agencies. During these two-day visits, the project staff will conduct interviews with TANF office staff, convene focus groups of TANF participants experiencing or at-risk of homelessness, observe orientation or intake sessions with clients, and interview representatives from relevant homelessness organization partners, including Continuums of Care. Where geographically feasible, the project team will visit up to two TANF offices per agency in order to identify variations across office locations.

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

The points of contact are Carli Wulff and Lauren Deutsch.