Marybeth Shinn

picture of Marybeth Shinn

As a professor at Vanderbilt University, Dr. Marybeth (Beth) Shinn focuses on ways to prevent and end homelessness and create opportunities for groups that face social exclusion.

She is co-principal investigator of the Family Options Study, a 12-site experiment comparing the success of different strategies to house families experiencing homelessness. Conducted together with colleagues at Abt Associates, the study followed 2,300 families for three years to understand how the strategies affected housing stability, self-sufficiency, family preservation, and adult and child well-being. Beth and students also analyzed qualitative interviews with 80 of the families across four study sites to understand families’ experiences in the homeless service system, how they make housing decisions, and why so many parents become separated from their children.

One of Beth’s particular areas of expertise is developing tools to predict who among populations in deep poverty and experiencing various forms of psycho-social distress will become homeless. With her students, she has developed targeting models to help New York City direct homeless prevention services available through the HomeBase program to the people most likely to become homeless without them. With colleagues at the Urban Institute, she is also studying whether supported housing can avert child out-of-home placement among families where homelessness contributes to risk.

Past collaborations with community organizations and research institutes include an experimental study of the Pathways Housing First intervention with adults who experience both chronic homelessness and serious mental illness, a survey of older adults in poverty to understand why some become homeless, an evaluation of New York City’s street count, and an experiment to determine whether rapid re-housing with transitional services fostered positive outcomes for children who were homeless with their families.