Social Networks, Time Homeless, and Social Support

A Study of Men on Skid Row

Published in: Network Science, v. 1, no. 3, Dec. 2013, p. 305-320

Posted on on January 01, 2013

by Harold D. Green, Joan S. Tucker, Daniela Golinelli, Suzanne L. Wenzel

Read More

Access further information on this document at Network Science

This article was published outside of RAND. The full text of the article can be found at the link above.

Research Questions

  1. What are the social networks of homeless men like?
  2. Do those social networks differ depending on whether the men are chronically or intermittently homeless?

Homeless men are frequently unsheltered and isolated, disconnected from supportive organizations and individuals. However, little research has investigated these men's social networks. We investigate the structure and composition of homeless men's social networks, vis-a-vis short- and long-term homelessness with a sample of men drawn randomly from meal lines on Skid Row in Los Angeles. Men continuously homeless for the past six months display networks composed of riskier members when compared to men intermittently homeless during that time. Men who report chronic, long-term homelessness display greater social network fragmentation when compared to non-chronically homeless men. While intermittent homelessness affects network composition in ways that may be addressable with existing interventions, chronic homelessness fragments networks, which may be more difficult to address with those interventions. These findings have implications for access to social support from network members which, in turn, impacts the resources homeless men require from other sources such as the government or non-governmental organizations.

Key Findings

  • Chronically homeless men have fragmented and risky social networks that existing interventions probably cannot affect.
  • For these men, health care, food security, and housing should be addressed first, with social support addressed afterward.

This report is part of the RAND Corporation External publication series. Many RAND studies are published in peer-reviewed scholarly journals, as chapters in commercial books, or as documents published by other organizations.

Our mission to help improve policy and decisionmaking through research and analysis is enabled through our core values of quality and objectivity and our unwavering commitment to the highest level of integrity and ethical behavior. To help ensure our research and analysis are rigorous, objective, and nonpartisan, we subject our research publications to a robust and exacting quality-assurance process; avoid both the appearance and reality of financial and other conflicts of interest through staff training, project screening, and a policy of mandatory disclosure; and pursue transparency in our research engagements through our commitment to the open publication of our research findings and recommendations, disclosure of the source of funding of published research, and policies to ensure intellectual independence. For more information, visit

The RAND Corporation is a nonprofit institution that helps improve policy and decisionmaking through research and analysis. RAND's publications do not necessarily reflect the opinions of its research clients and sponsors.