Date of Award

January 2021

Document Type

Open Access Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Public Health (MPH)


School of Public Health

First Advisor

Danya Keene


Objectives: This project aimed to explore factors contributing to homelessness within Fairfield County, Connecticut in order to understand how to develop prevention services that best match the population’s needs.

Methods: This project draws on data collected from a qualitative study done by Supportive Housing Works, where researchers conducted 2 focus groups and 44 semi-structured interviews with individuals experiencing homelessness or housing instability in Bridgeport, CT. Participants were recruited by posting flyers, as well as referrals from programs such as Prospect House, and other Opening Doors Fairfield County (ODFC) partner agencies. Eligible participants had to be registered with the Homeless Management Integration System as either an “individual” or “family” 18 years and older, and all respondents were compensated $10. Analysis and thematic coding of the transcripts was conducted using Dedoose.

Results: While the age at which participants first experienced homelessness varied, they identified several common factors that contributed to first-time, chronic, and episodic homelessness throughout their life courses. These ranged from adverse childhood experiences, derailing events such as incarceration and eviction, lack of social relationships and support, inadequate mental healthcare, barriers to employment, and navigating the system of “broken promises”. These factors were often related to one another both directly and indirectly, and accumulated over time, creating significant barriers to stable housing.

Discussion: Efforts to improve homelessness prevention programs must address the lack of affordable housing, improve reentry programs for those leaving incarceration, improve mental healthcare, and increase employment opportunities as well as social support. Programs that serve this population must ensure that clients feel empowered and respected, and that the process of applying for housing assistance, unemployment and disability benefits, is transparent and not too onerous. Given participants’ lack of social support to help buffer against derailing events, there should be a greater focus on finding ways to integrate those at-risk for homelessness into their community through meaningful employment opportunities and fostering supportive relationships.


This is an Open Access Thesis.

Open Access

This Article is Open Access