Several of us datawonks have begun a serious dive into the available reports provided by the 70 providers of housing and housing-ready and supportive services funded by local, state, HUD-Housing, and HUD-Cares sources over the past three years.
Our goal is to figure out what is happening as a result of all the expenditures and efforts using client outcomes. What have been the housing outcomes for participants, and how much has the money and work undertaken improved their ability to achieve stable, unsubsidized housing? More importantly for local government, and the newly-constituted Sonoma County Continuum of Care Governing Board, what has worked and what hasn't?
This comes at a time when the California Homeless Coordinating and Financing Council (HCFC) is asking the same questions. At their Dec 18th virtual meeting, Governor Newsom described the progress of his Roomkey and Homekey Programs, which have pumped $1 billion into local hands in record time.
With Public Record Act requests being submitted to acquire the past year's agency reports, including de-identified client reports from the local Homeless Management Information System (the same data that the the HCFC will be aggregating into their own database this spring), we should be able to answer these important questions for decision-makers and the public to review.
For each of the programs and expenditures, what do we know about our client housing histories before they enrolled in our program? Given that we assess them at the beginning for their health and housing vulnerability in order to provide priority services to the most in need, who were our clients served? Do they reflect the overall homeless community? Are they the most needy? What did they ask of us? What did we provide to them? How long did we do so? What were the outcomes achieved? What was not achieved? Why? Did it impact the level of our ongoing work needed? When they left our program, did they enroll in another program? What type of housing was it? What services were provided? Did the subsequent provider learn anything from the previous provider and records? What was the client's experience there? Did it result in their being more or less capable of improving their housing security and capabilities?
Many homeless advocates are unconvinced that the CoC understands the outcomes it has achieved, and are asking the Governing Board to direct staff to provide more information on program performance. This blog will contain what the requested reports and records reveal. What is likely to be the result is that far more questions and tracking systems need to be formulated to improve our chances of addressing the issue of homelessness. With an estimated $100 million having been spent locally over this period on law enforcement, emergency room utilization, facility development, and services provisions, we owe it to both clients and ourselves to do a better job.