Using Data and System Modeling to Inform Approaches to Homelessness

CESH published a three-part blog series on how communities have used HMIS data to support community planning to improve responses to homelessness.

  1. In the first blog post, we introduce system modeling, an exercise that enables communities to think through how individuals and families move through their homeless services system and use that information to develop a model to understand the relative type and amount of each project type needed to address homelessness, and changes needed to adjust the homeless system response to better end homelessness.
  2. In the second post, we describe how Indianapolis used system modeling to develop a vision and approach to address youth homelessness.
  3. In the final post, we introduce the CoC Racial Equity Analysis Tool, a new resource to aid Continuums of Care to easily visualize the racial dimensions of poverty and homelessness experienced in their jurisdictions to enable communities to take steps to improve their homeless crisis response systems.
Other Data-Informed, Community Approaches to Addressing Homelessness
  • Puget Sound Family Homelessness System Initiative. CESH expert Debra Rog and colleagues at Westat recently published two reports with key individual-level and systems-level findings as part of her team’s ten-year evaluation of the Family Homelessness System Initiative. The Initiative, funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, was launched in 2009 and aimed to reduce family homelessness in the Puget Sound Area by improving the coordination, efficiency, and effectiveness of the family homeless housing and service delivery systems. The evaluation included an impact study that examined the effects of the systems changes on families served in the system over an 18-month period compared to families served prior to the systems reform. An additional 30-month exploratory evaluation followed-up with a subset of families assigned to rapid re-housing or emergency shelter for their initial assistance.
  • How Better Data is Informing Washington DC’s Response to Homelessness. In 2014, a team at Abt Associates, led by CESH expert Brooke Spellman and Joyce Probst MacAlpine, began working with the District of Columbia Interagency Council on Homelessness (ICH) to improve the city’s response to a growing housing affordability and homelessness crisis. Abt used a system modeling framework that accounts for an array of variables to help ICH identify the most critical types of housing and services programs and the inventory needed to serve all individuals and families experiencing homelessness each year in Washington, DC. These recommendations form the basis of Homeward DC, a five-year strategic plan to end homelessness that was prepared by ICH and adopted by the Mayor and City Council in 2015.

Unsheltered Homelessness

  • Responding to Homeless Encampments: Strategies and Cost. Abt Associates conducted a study on homeless encampments for the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS). The study was completed in order to understand why homeless encampments form, how cities respond to homeless encampments, and the costs associated with those responses.
  • Series of Briefs Offer Evidence-based Guidance and Best Practices for Community Responses to Unsheltered Homelessness. Center experts Stephen Metraux and Barbara Poppe, funded by Arnold Ventures, conducted a research project that involved a literature review, interviews with national experts, and site visits to nine localities that are moving towards non-punitive, solutions-oriented approaches in responding to unsheltered homelessness through innovative collaborations between homeless services providers, first responders (police, fire, EMS), and local governments.

Connecting Housing and Health

  • Roles for health system providers. Healthcare providers are realizing that addressing housing instability is a critical piece of the puzzle to improve health outcomes and lower total costs, especially for those experiencing the complex needs that arise from poverty, homelessness, and poor health.
  • How Do Homelessness and Housing Stability Impact Behavioral Health? A new research brief published by the HHS’s Office of Planning, Research, and Evaluation (OPRE) examines the behavioral health of parents while they are in emergency shelter and over a three-year follow-up period. The brief, co-authored by Center experts Marybeth Shinn and Daniel Gubits with Lauren Dunton, uses data gathered through the HUD-sponsored Family Options Study, which collected a rich set of data on more than 2,000 families with children.
  • Health And Well-Being of Homeless High School Students. A report by the Institute for Children, Poverty, and Homelessness provides a critical look at the more than 360,000 high school students experiencing homelessness across the country. The report is presented in a series of seven “story maps” exploring the data collected by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The seven story maps explore: the importance of data, demographics, physical health, mental health, relationship violence and sexual risk, substance use, and school climate.
  • Using The Intersection Between Housing and Health To Improve Point In Time Counts. The Bronx Health and Housing Consortium in New York City identified an important – but sometimes overlooked – place where people without housing may be: hospitals emergency rooms.

Dynamic Prioritization

Dynamic prioritization is an approach to serving people experiencing homelessness that seeks to ensure that those with the greatest needs receive immediate support. CESH published a two-part series related to dynamic prioritization.