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Homelessness Data in HHS Mainstream Programs - Project Page


Begun in 2006, this study explores the extent to which states collect data on housing status and homelessness from applicants for the two largest HHS mainstream programs that may serve individuals or families experiencing homelessness:  Medicaid and Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF).  Interviews were conducted with TANF and Medicaid directors in all 50 states and the District of Columbia to learn about state practices related to the collection of housing status and homelessness data from program applicants.  The study also includes a review of data-collection practices in nine other HHS mainstream programs.

The Assistant Secretary for Planning and Evaluation (ASPE) and the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) jointly funded this project.  The performer was Abt Associates.

Summary of Findings

  • All states collect general information on housing status on their TANF and/or Medicaid applications; more than half of states collect indicators of homelessness on their application; 13 sates collect information on risk factors often associated with homelessness; and 10 states do not collect homelessness data or risk factors information.
  • Only five states reported having conducted any analysis of the available data and the analysis has been fairly limited; most states indicated a willingness to grant access to the homelessness data collected on TANF and Medicaid applications, even if no previous analysis has been conducted of the data.
  • Of the nine other HHS mainstream programs reviewed for this study, only one currently provides individual-level data on homelessness; four of the programs provide aggregate data on the number of homeless beneficiaries served; the four remaining programs do not collect information on the number of beneficiaries who are homeless.


  • Homelessness Data in Health and Human Services Mainstream Programs, Final Report, Winter 2009.
  • Housing Status Assessment Guide for State TANF and Medicaid Programs, Winter 2009. This Guide is intended to provide recommendations on a set of standardized housing status and homelessness risk questions that could be incorporated into state applications for TANF and/or Medicaid. The taxonomy of questions presented in this Guide is provided solely as a resource for states interested in modifying current application questions and to promote coordination between mainstream social service programs and housing and homelessness assistance providers. It is important to note that modifying current application and data collection procedures is not intended to be a requirement for states interested in using this Guide.
  • Potential Analyses with Homelessness Data: Ideas for Policymakers and Researchers, Winter 2009. This document summarizes ideas for data analysis that would help answer questions of interest to policymakers and researchers. Among other things, this study found that thirty states currently collect information on homelessness or risk factors for homelessness from applicants for TANF or Medicaid. Abt Associates developed some ideas for potential uses of this information for policymakers (especially at the state level) and researchers.