Research Projects

Airports and the Homeless In Reserve

Assigned to Steve Mayers
Last Edited by Steve Mayers

The goal of this research is to provide airports with best practices for addressing the homeless at airports.

Background (Describe the current situation or problem in the industry, and how your idea would address it.)

With the increase economic activity in most cities across the United States, there has also been an increase in homelessness at airports. Some cities have closed shelters, and the homeless may see airports as attractive areas to congregate due to their relative safety, access to public transit, climate controlled shelter, and access to food and other amenities. A review of articles over the last five years shows that airports such as Atlanta Hartsfield-Jackson International, LaGuardia, Honolulu International, Cleveland Hopkins, Orlando International, San Francisco International, and Los Angeles International have wrestled with how to balance their primary function of serving the traveling public while dealing respectfully with the homeless at their facility.

Responses to homeless individuals at airports have varied across time and geographically, and the homeless may bring safety/security issues as well as health and mental illness challenges.

Research is needed to help airports partner with local resources for developing and implementing a comprehensive plan for addressing homeless populations at their facilities.

Objective (What is the desired product or result that will help the airport industry?)

The objective of the research it to prepare a guidebook to help address homeless populations at airports. At a minimum, the guidance should help airports develop plans and policies that:
• Balance safety, humaneness, and respect;
• Promote partnerships with local community agencies, health care professionals, and law enforcement;
• Consider resource needs (cost and staffing);
• Allow for flexibility (e.g., changes in policies and resources, seasonality, local economic conditions);
• Allow for flexibility (e.g., changes in policies and resources, seasonality, local economic conditions); and
• Include strategies for public engagement to help improve outcomes and safe practices.

Approach (Describe in general terms the steps you think are needed to achieve the objective.)

Possible research steps include:
• Survey of airports of various sizes to gauge extend of the problem;
• Focus groups/interviews with airports and their communities, including mental health experts, to learn which practices are most effective for various situations;
• Develop tools (decision tree, flow chart) to help airports determine which approach may be most appropriate for their situation.
• Prepare the guidebook.

Cost Estimate and Backup (Provide a cost estimate and support for how you arrived at the estimate.)

$400,000. This estimate is within the range of typical ACRP projects of this nature. It assumes costs for several site visits, interviews, and focus groups, as well as for developing a guidebook and supplemental resources.

Related Research - List related ACRP and other industry research; describe gaps (see link to Research Roadmaps above), and describe how your idea would address these gaps. This is a critical element of a synthesis topic submission.

PARAS 0033: Mental Health and Airport Security focuses on mental health issues for employees, passengers, and the non-traveling public, with a limited focus on airport security. During the development of the RFP, the topic of homelessness was frequently brought up by the project panel. Yet it was felt that, while the homeless at airports are often dealing with mental health challenges and can be the subject of security issues, homelessness at airports is a much broader issue, deserving a separate, more comprehensive study. The PARAS panel, through consensus, also subsequently recommended support for this ACRP problem statement.

Idea No. 30