Date of Award




Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


School of Social Welfare

Content Description

1 online resource (v, 192 pages) : illustrations, color map, forms.

Dissertation/Thesis Chair

Lynn Warner

Committee Members

Wonhyung Lee, Ben Henwood


Continuum of Care, HMIS, Homeless, Mobility, Homeless persons, Residential mobility, Human services

Subject Categories

Public Policy | Social Work | Sociology


This study used a mixed methods design to explore the geographic mobility of homeless service users in northeastern New York State and the relationship between mobility and homeless service use, engagement, and delivery. For the quantitative component, a sample of Homeless Management Information System (HMIS) data—that includes adults accessing homeless services in 2017 across 21 counties in northeastern New York State—was used to describe service users’ mobility and the demographic, background, and service use characteristics associated with mobility. For the qualitative component, semi-structured interviews with homeless service providers in those same counties were used to understand providers’ views of mobility, how the service system and local policies influence mobility, and whether mobility impacts service engagement and delivery. Results from the quantitative strand indicate that roughly one-fifth of homeless service users in the study region accessed a service outside their county of last residence, but the data showed no multi-county service use. In a multivariate model, service users who were older, those who identified as non-white, those who had a substance use problem, and those who were receiving public assistance were less likely to be accessing a service outside their county of last residence. Additionally, individuals were episodic shelter users and combination shelter and housing intervention users in the past year were less likely to be accessing a service outside their county of last residence. In contrast, veterans and those who used multiple housing interventions in the past year were more likely to be accessing a service outside their county of last residence. In the qualitative strand, participants shared insights into circumstances that contribute to mobility and revealed significant ways the homeless service system and its governing policies create and hinder mobility. They also illustrate the ways mobility can be a barrier to accessing services and housing. Findings from the two strands converged around four confirmatory and two discrepant mixed-methods findings that show how the findings from each method fit with one another. Implications at the federal and local levels are discussed and directions for future research are offered. In sum, this study drives home the value of viewing the geographic mobility of people experiencing homelessness from the perspective of service use, system design, and policy implementation and why the phenomenon needs to be understood as more than just individual behavior or choice.