While the unraveling of the kinship bond has long been suspected to play a role in the epidemiology of homelessness, the connection between kinship and homelessness has been little studied. Based on a normative analysis of the role of family structure in response to adversity, this article explores the impact of the amount and quality of kinship ties on episodes of homelessness experienced by discharged psychiatric patients in Ohio. Survey data derived from personal interviews with both former patients and their kin indicate more strain in relations with kin of the homeless than the nonhomeless. The strain in the kinship bond appears to emanate from a greater prevalence of chronic disabilities that undermine independent functioning and tax the resources of relatives who choose to remain involved. Consistent with this interpretation, patients with histories of homelessness reported more psychiatric symptoms, more deficits in daily living skills, and more contact with the criminal justice system. In general, patient variables were better able than family variables to differentiate the homeless from the nonhomeless. Nonetheless, the formulation of public policies for reducing the incidence and prevalence of homelessness will surely need to take account of the kinship bond and how it can be strengthened.


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