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Friday, May 15, 3:30 pm

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Typologies of Crime and Disorder at the Property Level in Boston, MA
Presenter: Alina Ristea, Boston Area Research Initiative


Dan O’Brien, Boston Area Research Initiative

Forrest Hangen, Boston Area Research Initiative

Recent literature shows new evidence that even in high-crime neighborhoods crime clusters on specific street blocks, justifying policing tactics that focus on particular hotspots. As cities have begun to explore even more targeted interventions, focusing on “problem properties,” there has been little research to establish if and how such strategies would be effective. Here we present a collaboration between the Boston Area Research Initiative and the City of Boston’s Mayor’s Problem Properties Task Force that seeks to advance the science of problem properties and translate it into improved policy. The first stages of work entail the analysis of the prevalence of crime at the parcel (i.e., property) level. An initial, basic question is: what is a problem property and are there different types of problem properties? To answer this question, we created parcel typologies for both residential and commercial parcels from 911 and 311 records quantifying six types of crime and disorder: social disorder (e.g. panhandlers), private conflict (e.g., domestic violence), violence (e.g., fight), guns (e.g., shooting), private neglect (e.g., unsatisfactory living conditions), public denigration (e.g., graffiti). The data offers insights on finding typologies that can define characteristics of problem properties. We used cluster analysis to find arrangements of observations which maximize homogeneity in a group and heterogeneity between groups. For example, one homogeneous typology for residential parcels includes a high volume of private conflict and violence, meaning that observations assigned to this cluster include the before-mentioned features, and no other cluster captures the same relationships. Hence, the typologies are dissimilar between clusters concerning the variables included, and each cluster has internal cohesion. We have used the typologies to categorize those properties designated as problem properties by the Mayor’s Problem Properties Task Force, and also to identify properties with similar trajectories. This helps practitioners to better understand the nature of problems at a property and to anticipate properties that might have similar outcomes in the future. We also describe the plan for the second stage of the project, which entails surveys and observations of problem properties, to be conducted through an experiential seminar for graduate students on communities and crime at Northeastern University.

Patterns of Emergency Shelter Use in Boston, 2018: Identifying Different Groups of Individuals Experiencing Homelessness
Presenter: Eline van Es, Boston Public Health Commission

Co-Authors & Abstract


Dan Dooley, Director, Research and Evaluation Office, Boston Public Health Commission

Stephanie Acker, Interim Bureau Director, Homeless Services Bureau, Boston Public Health Commission

Jason Lee, HMIS Manager, Information and Technology Services, Boston Public Health Commission

Individuals experiencing homelessness often face numerous barriers. However, there is limited understanding of the demographics and social determinants of health of Boston’s adults experiencing homelessness. Each year the Boston Public Health Commission’s two emergency shelters serve over 5000 individuals ages 18+ years. Both shelters, a women’s and men’s shelter, operate 24 hours a day, 365 days a year and provide guests with a bed, linens, showers, three meals, case managers, and a number of community and housing resources to move beyond shelter to stable housing. We pooled data of guests staying at either emergency shelter in 2018 to examine whether demographic factors are related to a difference in shelter utilization patterns. Using a k-means clustering approach, we identified 3 different subgroups of emergency shelter users within our cohort: transitional, episodic, and long-term. The findings of this study suggest that programs and resources should target specific demographic groups in order to prevent individuals experiencing homelessness from staying at emergency shelters long-term or (repeatedly) entering shelter. Additionally, further research is warranted into factors that can potentially predict long-term homelessness to be able to prevent individuals from becoming homeless and shorten the time they experience being homeless.

Health Behaviors and Health Outcomes of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Adults in Boston: Findings from the 2010-2017 Boston Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System
Presenter: Darien Mather, Boston Public Health Commission


Johnna S. Murphy, MPH, Boston Public Health Commission

Daniel P. Dooley, Boston Public Health Commission

“In the follow-up to our 2019 BARI presentation on the sociodemographic characteristics of Boston’s LGBT population, we explored the health behaviors and health outcomes of this population. The Boston Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System (BBRFSS) is a biennial random-digit-dial household telephone survey that assesses health-related risk behaviors and sociodemographics of Boston adult residents. We pooled cross-sectional data of 12,942 adult residents participating in the 2010, 2013, 2015, and 2017 BBRFSS to explore the health behaviors and health outcomes of Boston’s LGBT adults compared with their heterosexual and cisgender peers.

Despite lesbian and gay adults having higher levels of educational attainment, income, and homeownership; higher percentages experienced poor mental health outcomes, asthma, and violence as an adult compared with heterosexual adults. Despite the younger age of bisexual adults, higher percentages experienced violence as an adult, poor physical and mental health, asthma, smoking (males), and high alcohol consumption (females) compared with heterosexual adults. Transgender adults reported relatively low SES compared with cisgender adults, and this was reflected in lower percentages of transgender adults experiencing good overall health and higher percentages experiencing poor mental health outcomes, and asthma compared with cisgender adults.

By examining LGBT subgroups individually, important differences in their health experiences were revealed, although there were commonalities. The shared experiences of poor mental health and violence indicate policy interventions are needed to reduce the unique stressors on LGBT individuals. These data highlight the need for future research into the factors we have already identified (i.e., sex, gender identity, and orientation) and factors we have yet to explore (e.g., race/ethnicity) and pathways to health inequities.”

Helping Families Leave Shelter with Greater Stability — How EMPath’s Mobility Mentoring Approach Meets Key Recommendations
Presenter: Devashri Salvi, Economic Mobility Pathways


Tom Miller, Economic Mobility Pathways

Charles Homer, Economic Mobility Pathways

Ashley Winning, Economic Mobility Pathways

Between FY2008 and FY2016, the number of families seeking emergency shelter in Massachusetts grew by 93%. A Boston Foundation report on the “Growing Challenge of Homelessness” (GCH) made three recommendations for shelter providers to help families come out and stay out of emergency shelters: 1) better understand the (financial) resources the family already has and build on them; 2) focus on special job skills and training programs to increase employment rates at exit; and 3) provide more intensive assistance with housing search and navigating the tight housing markets.

Economic Mobility Pathways (EMPath) operates several shelters for homeless families in greater Boston. EMPath employs its coaching model, Mobility Mentoring®, with all families who stay at its shelters. Mobility Mentoring (MM) is the professional practice of partnering with participants so that over time they may acquire the resources, skills, and sustained behavior changes necessary to attain and preserve their economic independence. Activities conducted within the MM model align with the three recommendations in the GCH report.

In this presentation, we draw comparisons between Mobility Mentoring practices and the GCH recommendations, and assess whether the GCH recommendations are associated with leaving shelter more quickly and more stably (to permanent housing, with higher income) among homeless families at EMPath’s shelters.

Moderator: Eric Esteves, The Lenny Zakim Fund