Evaluation of Continuums of Care For Homeless People

Burt, M., D. Pollack, A. Sosland, K. Mikelson, E. Drapa, K. Greenwalt, and P. Sharkey
Washington, D.C.: The Urban Institute

The purpose of this project was to examine Continuums of Care for homeless people throughout the United States, to understand their development, their current structure, and their likely future. A Continuum of Care (CoC) is, ideally, a system for helping people who are or have been homeless or who are at imminent risk of homelessness. A full CoC includes prevention, outreach and assessment, emergency shelter, transitional housing, permanent supportive housing, and affordable housing, plus supportive services in all components. HUD has promoted the CoC concept through much of the 1990s, and has structured its competitive funding under the McKinney-Vento Homeless Assistance Act to further CoC development.

This study sought to answer several questions about the ways in which local communities are organized into CoCs to address homelessness:

• What do local homeless assistance networks look like, how do they work, and whom do they serve?

• Are all the important players, or their representatives, included in planning the local CoC and coordinating their programs and services?

• How well are homeless and mainstream services integrated?

• What goals is each jurisdiction trying to accomplish with its CoC—helping homeless people, ending homelessness, or some combination—and how does its concept of its “continuum” further those goals?

• What role does data or statistics about homeless people, services, and program performance play in the planning process and in decisions about what to support?

• How has the HUD requirement for a coordinated community-wide application affected development of CoCs, client access to and receipt of needed programs and services, inclusion of relevant homeless-specific and mainstream players, and data-based decision making?

Wagner Faculty