PD&R’s Upcoming Research on Combatting Homelessness Part 2
Mark Shroder, Associate Deputy Assistant Secretary for Research, Evaluation, and Monitoring
In Part 1 of this series, I discussed the use of research for policy, and I used homelessness to illustrate how Congress and HUD support research to meet their policy commitments more effectively. In Part 2, we’ll look at four additional studies.
The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (Recovery Act) appropriated $1.5 billion for local homelessness prevention programs that fund both one-time payments (for such items as back rent, security and utility deposits, overdue utility bills, and moving costs) and services (such as eviction defense and credit counseling). We don’t yet have any evidence that an ounce of homelessness prevention programs can produce a pound of cure. Before this study, no assessment tool had demonstrated that it could predict which households were at greatest risk, and no confirmation yet exists of the long-term effectiveness of spending on prevention programs. For PD&R’s Homelessness Prevention Study, our contractor, the Urban Institute, has conducted a census of all prevention programs funded by the Recovery Act and followed up at sites employing particularly promising approaches. The forthcoming Final Report identifies some hard choices made in the design of local programs, describes the ways in which Recovery Act funding affected local service delivery systems, and outlines how the government could determine superior strategies.
In PD&R’s Evaluation of the Rapid Re-housing for Families Demonstration, our contractor, Abt Associates, analyzes the uses of substantial funding made available under the Recovery Act for rapid re-housing, which assumes that there is an identifiable group of homeless families that could be stabilized with time-limited housing assistance and minimal other services. This research studies how 23 grantees identified eligible families, the kinds and duration of assistance offered to these families, and what happened to the families over time. A forthcoming process analysis found great variation across the programs that were implemented, reflecting not only the community contexts of the grantees but also the culture and past experiences of the agencies implementing the program. A report on family outcomes is due in early 2014.
Through public housing programs and the Housing Choice Voucher Program, public housing agencies (PHAs) assist more than 3 million low-income households. However, these PHAs don’t necessarily devote all their spare housing units or spare funding to the homeless. In PD&R’s Study of Public Housing Agencies’ Engagement With Homeless Households, our contractor, Abt Associates, will measure the current engagement of PHAs in serving homeless households, explore barriers to — or concerns about — increasing the number of homeless households served, and identify mechanisms to address these barriers. The study will consist of a census of all PHAs and a purposive follow-up survey of 125 agencies to gain insight into their choices. A final report and publicly available dataset are expected in fall 2013.
Finally, the HUD-Veterans Affairs Supportive Housing (HUD-VASH) program sets aside housing vouchers to assist homeless veterans who are receiving case management services from the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA). Under an agreement with PD&R, the VA’s National Center on Homelessness Among Veterans will produce the HUD-VASH Evaluation and Exit Study to determine what barriers to housing participating veterans face, whether the program’s participants achieve long-term stabilization, and the reasons why participants may exit the program. The study will be conducted at 4 sites; researchers will interview up to 700 veterans, collect administrative data about these veterans and the programs that serve them, and analyze the veterans’ experience. HUD-VASH is one of the most resource-intensive programs available to homeless veterans because it offers both a long-term deep housing subsidy and supportive services. This study will shed light on how the program may fail for some and offer insight into how to improve its effectiveness. The final report is expected in fall 2014.
These studies, as well as the three studies described in Part 1, are designed to increase the effectiveness of federal programs to end homelessness. Our research agenda contains numerous additional proposals for effectiveness studies. To those who ask, why don’t you just help people? Why spend the time and money on research? Our answer is: A commitment to ending homelessness necessarily involves a commitment to research the best way to go about it.