“They can only do so much:” Use of family while coping with rural homelessness

Deanna L. Trella, Timothy Patrick Hilton


This research explores individual and family reliance on non-homeless family members in coping with homelessness in a rural area. Drawing on 114 in-depth, semi-structured interviews with homeless adults and families in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, we found that all participants relied on non-homeless family members for assistance, but with variation in the amount of help sought and received. Some participants displayed high thresholds for help-seeking, only relying on family under extreme circumstances and generally asking for modest assistance. This was common among childless single homeless adults who often had different support. Other participants displayed low thresholds for help-seeking, frequently asking for and requiring much assistance from non-homeless family members. This was especially common among homeless persons with children. Implications for policy and services are presented.


homelessness, rural, poverty, family assistance, coping behaviors

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