The health status and well-being of low-resource, housing-unstable, single-parent families living in violent neighbourhoods in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.


The health and well-being of single-parent families living in violent neighbourhoods in US cities who participate in housing programmes is not well described. This two-phase, mixed-methods study explores the health status of families who were participants in a housing-plus programme in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania between 2011 and 2013 and the relationship between the characteristics of the neighbourhoods in which they lived and their perceptions of well-being and safety. In phase 1, data collected with standardised health status instruments were analysed using descriptive statistics and independent sample t-tests to describe the health of single parents and one randomly selected child from each parent’s household in comparison to population norms. In a subset of survey respondents, focus groups were conducted to generate an in-depth understanding of the daily lives and stressors of these families. Focus group data were analysed using content analysis to identify key descriptive themes. In phase 2, daily activity path mapping, surveys and interviews of parent-child dyads were collected to assess how these families perceive their health, neighbourhood and the influence of neighbourhood characteristics on the families’ day-to-day experience. Narratives and activity maps were combined with crime data from the Philadelphia Police Department to analyse the relationship between crime and perceptions of fear and safety. Phase 1 data demonstrated that parent participants met or exceeded the national average for self-reported physical health but fell below the national average across all mental health domains. Over 40% reported moderate to severe symptoms of depression. Parents described high levels of stress resulting from competing priorities, financial instability, and concern for their children’s well-being and safety. Analysis of phase 2 data demonstrated that neighbourhood characteristics exert influence over parents’ perceptions of their environment and how they permit their children to move within it. This research suggests the need for robust research, programmatic and policy interventions to support housing-unstable families who live in neighbourhoods with high levels of violence.