It is reasonable to assume that individuals and families who are homeless have been exposed to trauma. Research has shown that individuals who are homeless are likely to have experienced some form of previous trauma; homelessness itself can be viewed as a traumatic experience; and being homeless increases the risk of further victimization and retraumatization. Historically, homeless service settings have provided care to traumatized people without directly acknowledging or addressing the impact of trauma. As the field advances, providers in homeless service settings are beginning to realize the opportunity that they have to not only respond to the immediate crisis of homelessness, but to also contribute to the longer-term healing of these individuals.
Trauma-Informed Care (TIC) offers a framework for providing services to traumatized individuals within a variety of service settings, including homelessness service settings. Although many providers have an emerging awareness of the potential importance of TIC in homeless services, the meaning of TIC remains murky, and the mechanisms for systems change using this framework are poorly defined. This paper explores the evidence base for TIC within homelessness service settings, including a review of quantitative and qualitative studies and other supporting literature. The authors clarify the definition of Trauma Informed Care, discuss what is known about TIC based on an extensive literature review, review case examples of programs implementing TIC, and discuss implications for practice, programming, policy, and research.