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Evaluability Assessment of Discharge Planning and the Prevention of Homelessness

Publication Date

Prepared by: Garrett Moran, Rafael Semansky, Elizabeth Quinn, Rebecca Noftsinger, and Teresa Koenig Westat

Executive Summary (in PDF Format)

This report presents the results of an evaluability assessment of discharge/transition planning as a homeless prevention strategy in four types of institutional and custodial settings including: adult in-patient psychiatric hospitals, foster care independent living programs, residential treatment programs for adults with substance abuse disorders, and residential treatment centers for youth. The goal of the study was to examine the feasibility of conducting a rigorous and objective evaluation in these settings. The approach used included: a literature review, expert panel meetings, a documentary analysis of selected programs, site visits to exemplary programs, and analysis of findings as a result of these activities. This final report addresses the evaluability question and offers alternative evaluation research designs.


The authors of this report wish to acknowledge the assistance of many individuals who contributed to this study. Peggy Halpern from the Office of the Assistant Secretary for Planning and Evaluation (ASPE) at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, the project officer for the study, provided invaluable guidance throughout the course of the study and contributed helpful comments on both the form and substance of this report. Dr. Halpern and her ASPE colleague Walter Leginski provided the project vision and research questions that served as the basis of the study and contributed to an ongoing dialogue as our work progressed. Canta Pian of ASPE provided essential direction throughout the project.

We are also grateful to members of the Technical Expert Panel (TEP), who brought their broad range of knowledge and experience to this project at both its early and late stages. TEP members were Amy Baker, Robert Battjes, Denise Juliano-Bult, Ronna Cook, Dennis Culhane, Peter Delaney, Deborah Dennis, Wayne Fenton, James Herrell, Mary Ellen Hombs, Robert Keane, Debra Rog, Marian Schwager, Mary Bruce Webb, Michael Wiseman, and Marty Zanghi. Howard Goldman served as cofacilitator for the TEP.

We are grateful to several Westat colleagues who contributed to this effort. Janet Ciarico and Jane Mettenburg assisted with foster care site visits. John Rogers assisted with statistical issues, and Robert Orwin provided research methodology consultation. Susan Azrin provided editorial assistance, and Jeanie Kemp provided word processing and other administrative support throughout the project. Martha Franklin and Jenny Crabb provided assistance with style review and production of this final product.

We are particularly grateful to the primary contacts and other staff members who represented the sites participating in the documentary analysis and site visit aspects of this study. While study protocol prohibits naming institutions or individuals, their contribution to this process was quite significant. Nineteen sites participating in the documentary analysis phase provided documents related to their discharge planning process. In addition, they provided information and clarification through telephone discussions, and access to other staff members when appropriate. Eight sites selected for site visits provided additional information; access to clinical, administrative, and IT staff for onsite interviews; introductions to community programs with which they work; and scheduling and logistics support for our visits. Their gifts of time, knowledge, experience, and hospitality are much appreciated, as is their dedication to the populations they serve. Staff members of collaborating agencies in the communities we visited also contributed a great deal to our knowledge and understanding of the challenges of discharge planning for those persons experiencing homelessness or who are at risk of homelessness.