Core Performance Indicators for Homeless-Serving Programs Administered by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Conclusions

09/01/2003

The process and performance measures outline in this final report are suggestive of potential measures that could cut across the four homeless-serving programs. It is recommended that careful thought be given to the development and implementation of such measures so that programs are not burdened by large numbers of overly complicated performance measures. Each measure added will likely require program staff to make changes in data collection forms, procedures, and automated data systems, as well as likely impose added burden and costs on program staff and participants. However, given the increasing emphasis on measurement of program performance in recent years by Congress and the potential for performance data to provide valuable feedback for enhancing service delivery, it is critical to identify potential ways in which programs can better track participant outcomes  particularly, changes in status (e.g., housing situation or earnings) from the time of entry into homeless-serving programs through termination and beyond.

Building on outcome measures suggested in this report and moving beyond the specific programmatic outcomes for participants in the four DHHS homeless-serving programs that are the focus of this study, it may be possible down the road to introduce (1) experimental designs for measuring net impacts of program services and (2) system-wide measures that communities may be able to use to gauge the overall success of their efforts to counter problems associated with homelessness. Such experimental designs could employ some of these same outcome measures, but compare outcomes (e.g., whether days of homelessness are reduced or whether labor force attachment and earnings increase) for individuals receiving program services versus similar outcomes for a randomly assigned control group of homeless individuals (not receiving services). Introduction of system-wide measures could provide the opportunity for exploring the wider potential effects of a group of or all homeless services within a particular locality (as well as other contextual factors, such as local economic conditions and loss of affordable housing). Such system-wide measures would not be used to hold individual programs accountable for achievement of specified outcomes, but rather enable state and local decision-makers (e.g., a mayor of a large metropolitan area) to address more expansively questions about the local homeless situation, such as is the problem of chronic homelessness intensifying in the community or is the community making a dent in the number of homeless individuals on the streets and living in emergency shelters each night or to what extent is the community addressing its general homeless problem.

Endnotes

(15) HCH is clustered with several other programs, including Community Health Centers [CHCs], Migrant Health Centers, Health Services for Residents of Public Housing, and other community-based health programs.

(16) At the same time, each program has more specific goals which relate to the populations served and related to its original program intent  for example, RHYs BCP component has as one of its goals family reunification (when appropriate); HCH aims to improve health care status of homeless individuals; PATH aims to engage participants in mental health care services and improve mental health status; and the Treatment for Homeless Persons program aims at engaging participants in substance abuse treatment and reducing/eliminating substance abuse dependency.

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