A national network of funders supporting strategic, innovative, and effective solutions to homelessness

What We’ve Learned about What Works to End Chronic Homelessness


The 100,000 Homes Campaign is using data to end and prevent homelessness - and you can too.

Each month, around 130 communities report their monthly housing placement numbers to the 100,000 Homes Campaign, a national effort, coordinated by Community Solutions, to help communities house their most chronic and vulnerable neighbors. That’s a lot of performance data, and it’s helped our team draw some important and statistically significant conclusions about what’s working and what isn’t in communities across the country.

The goal of collecting monthly housing placement data is to help communities develop a transparent feedback loop. Unlike Point-in-Time (PIT) data, monthly data can help local teams build on bright spots and troubleshoot red flags in real time. It also provides a meaningful benchmark to determine whether or not a specific community is on track to end chronic and veteran homelessness by December of 2015, the federal goal under Opening Doors.

Funders looking to help communities improve their efforts to end homelessness may want to ensure that grantees are tracking their housing placements monthly and that each grantee knows how many total housing placements will be required of its community to end chronic and veteran homelessness locally by the end of 2015. We recommend that communities whose monthly housing placements rates do not place them on track to end chronic and veteran homelessness within four years focus significant attention and resources on improvement.

To determine the areas in which such communities should focus their improvement efforts, we compared the monthly housing placement rates of cities and towns across the country to identify common factors among the highest performing communities.

More than 40 communities enrolled in the 100,000 Homes Campaign completed our Self-Assessment Tool (SAT), a 90-question community survey that asks questions about resources and strategies across local agencies and providers. In exchange, we provided each community with a detailed feedback report outlining its strengths and weaknesses and proposing specific, customized strategies to improve its monthly housing placement rate. We then cross-referenced survey results with monthly housing placement data to determine which practices and policies are correlated with higher housing placement rates.

Early analysis reveals five factors that significantly distinguish high-performing communities from those that continue to struggle:

     1.     Implementing Housing First on a system-wide basis

Housing First is the best way to end chronic homelessness, yet most communities still aren’t implementing it system-wide. Our data shows that true Housing First communities are ending homelessness measurably faster than their peers.

     2.     Creating and continuously updating a prioritized, by-name list of homeless neighbors

To end homelessness, we must continually identify everyone experiencing it by name and prioritize chronic and vulnerable people for housing systematically. Communities with a formal way of doing this are housing more people monthly than their peers. Many of these communities are also integrating their PIT count with the VI-SPDAT, or another tool for knowing everyone by name and connecting them to the most appropriate, evidence-based housing option.

     3.     Setting eligibility criteria for permanent supportive housing as a community, rather than at the provider level

Communities are empowered to set community-wide eligibility requirements and asked to do so under HEARTH. Setting agreed-upon, community-wide eligibility standards, especially for turnover units, typically result in better targeting and higher monthly housing placement rates for chronic and vulnerable homeless individuals.

     4.     Using shared data to drive decision making around housing

The most successful communities in the country are finding creative ways to share data in real time across multiple local agencies, even in the face of restrictive laws and regulations. (Salt Lake City and Phoenix both offer excellent examples of this work.) These communities are expediting the housing placement process for people experiencing homelessness through shared release of information (ROI) forms across local agencies. Many are also utilizing shared vacancy lists so that everyone has access to the same list of available units at any given time.

     5.     Implementing a concrete plan to tap Medicaid and CDBG funds

In many cases, under the Affordable Care Act, new Medicaid dollars will be available to pay for case management, health care, mental health care, wellness/preventative care and/or substance abuse treatment services in supportive housing. Similarly, HUD provides funding to communities through the Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) program to fund decent housing for low-income adults and to expand economic opportunities. Communities like Portland, Philadelphia and New York with concrete plans to leverage these types of funding are achieving measurably higher monthly housing placement rates than their peer communities.

Our national data makes clear that communities would do well to implement these five factors if they hope to end chronic and veteran homelessness by December of 2015. Perhaps more importantly, communities focusing time and resources on strategies that run counter to these five factors may actually be hindering their own efforts to end homelessness.

Funders hoping to set communities up for success should consider recommending and rewarding these best practices as well as the monthly performance measurement practices that allowed us to isolate them.

Beth Sandor is the Director of Quality Improvement at Community Solutions.  Community Solutions works to strengthen communities to end homelessness by building partnerships, sharing innovations, and connecting vulnerable people to homes and support.

twitter_logo.pngFind her at @bethsandor.  Follow Community Solutions at @cmtysolutions and 100,000 Homes Campaign at @100khomes.

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We joined Funders Together because we believe in the power of philanthropy to play a major role in ending homelessness, and we know we have much to learn from funders across the country.

-Christine Marge, Director of Housing and Financial Stability at United Way of Greater Los Angeles

I am thankful for the local partnerships here in the Pacific Northwest that we’ve been able to create and nurture thanks to the work of Funders Together. Having so many of the right players at the table makes our conversations – and all of our efforts – all the richer and more effective.

-David Wertheimer, Deputy Director at Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation

Very often a lack of jobs and money is not the cause of poverty, but the symptom. The cause may lie deeper in our failure to give our fellow citizens a fair chance to develop their own capacities, in a lack of education and training, in a lack of medical care and housing, in a lack of decent communities in which to live and bring up their children.

-President Lyndon B. Johnson, 1964 State of the Union Address

Funders Together has given me a platform to engage the other funders in my community. Our local funding community has improved greatly to support housing first models and align of resources towards ending homelessness.

-Leslie Strnisha, Vice President at Sisters of Charity Foundation of Cleveland

Our family foundation convenes local funders and key community stakeholders around strategies to end homelessness in Houston. Funders Together members have been invaluable mentors to us in this effort, traveling to our community to share their expertise and examples of best practices from around the nation.

-Nancy Frees Fountain, Managing Director at The Frees Foundation

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