Initial discussions with agency officials at the four homeless-serving programs and review of readily available program documentation suggested that despite having a common focus on serving homeless individuals, the four programs that are the focus of this study have many differences. Upon closer examination of the programs, the differences appear to be greater than the similarities for example, the four programs serve different subpopulations of the homeless, providing a different range of services over varying lengths of participant involvement, to achieve often different results. As might be expected given these programmatic differences, approaches to measuring and reporting on program performance and the problems associated with collecting high-quality data are also quite different. In particular, sites vary substantially across the following dimensions:
- Actual GPRA measures used ranging from process to outcome-oriented;
- The specific data items collected and the extent to which pre/post outcome data are collected;
- Whether data are maintained and submitted to the federal office in aggregate or at the participant-level;
- Reliability and completeness of data provided; and
- Whether new performance measures and data systems are currently being designed and/or implemented.
The implication of these differences is that it will be a difficult and delicate task to come up with a common set of performance measures across the four programs, which are also applicable to other DHHS programs serving homeless individuals. In addition, while federal agency officials are very willing to discuss their programs and share their knowledge of how they approach data collection and reporting, their willingness and ability to undertake change (e.g., potentially incorporating new, more outcome-oriented GPRA measures) is uncertain. From our discussions, it appears that changes in how programs collect data and report on performance will require substantial efforts on the part of agency officials and programs. For example, with regard to RHY which is currently involved in an effort to implement a streamlined data system it would not only require change at the federal administering agency, but how over 600 grantee organizations collect and manage data.
In the next chapter of this report, we examine the potential relevance of homeless administrative data systems (HADS) for enhancing data collection and performance measurement in DHHS homeless-serving programs. Chapter 4 then returns to the main focus of this study examining the potential for implementing a set of common performance measures across these four homeless-serving DHHS programs.
(10) 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.