NAEH Report on a Model to End Family Homelessness

The National Alliance to End Homelessness has released a document highlighting the success that Columbus, OH has experienced on the road to ending homelessness. Columbus appears to have implemented a data driven system in compliance with the expectations of the HEARTH Act. In 1995 1,168 families entered the homeless system, this numbed peaked to 1,217 families in 2007, and dramatically declined to 746 families in 2009. This is due to the fact that in 2009, 60 percent of homeless families exited homelessness for permanent housing. The document also states that only one percent of single adults and no families returned to homelessness in 2009. While the steady decrease is remarkable, it is important to note that this study defines returning to homelessness as a household or individual who has had any shelter contact within two weeks to three months after exiting shelter. Therefore, families or individuals that returned to shelter beyond three months are not accounted for. Nevertheless, the extent of decline amongst their homeless population is astounding and worthy of discussion.

Columbus attributes their successful statistics to their devotion to tracking and evaluating system activities and performance strategies employed by the community. Columbus’ HMIS database has coverage of 98 percent of shelters, 91 percent of transitional housing, and 95 percent of permanent supportive housing providers. The HMIS is an open system that makes client history and information open to all providers operating under this system. The only client information that cannot be viewed is HIPPA protected health information and information related to domestic violence. The community shelter board (CSB) disperses local, state,  federal, and private funds which raises initiative to comply with HMIS because only programs that participate in HMIS receive funding from CSB.

HMIS is not only essential because of the large amount of data it contains, or because of the bridge of communication it opens up amongst service providers. HMIS is essential because the CSB uses this data to examine performance targets annually and determine what benchmarks need to be targeted more aggressively in an effort to achieve their ten year goal in ending homelessness. The CSB meets regularly with program administrators to review system performance and to gather feedback on how to address gaps and improve needs. They do this through the use of performance contracts to hold agencies accountable for doing what they set out to do. If the program encounters difficulties, the provider must participate in a Quality Improvement Intervention Program. If this does not work, the agency may lose funds until they are able to implement a working strategy.

To view the full document from the National Alliance to End Homelessness Hearth Academy click here:


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