Abt Associates’ Evaluation of the Conrad N. Hilton Foundation’s Chronic Homelessness Initiative

 

Chronic Homelessness Initiative Evaluation

Recommendations and Conclusion

In 2017, Los Angeles County saw great success in investment in housing and supportive services and coordination and collaboration across systems, agencies, and partners. For the first time in several years, the Point-in-Time Count in January 2018 showed a decrease in chronic homelessness. These communitywide investments and collaborations may be starting to turn the tide of a sustained increase in the number of people experiencing chronic homelessness. This may represent a tipping point if the community is able to align behind key strategies, implement functional and accountable systems, and sustain support for the City and County strategies.

Point in Time Count of People Experiencing Chronic Homelessness

 

With this investment comes challenges in increasing organizational capacity, staffing, training opportunities, technological systems, and infrastructure quickly to meet the current need. While City and County agencies, the Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority, homeless service providers, and other community organizations will be infused with Proposition HHH and Measure H funding over the next decade, it is increasingly important to have monitoring and accountability checks in place. Additionally, a communication strategy is needed to align messaging to various community stakeholder groups (e.g. philanthropy, homeless service providers, public officials, advocacy groups), the media, and the public.

As the Los Angeles community and the Conrad N. Hilton Foundation continue to scale and invest in efforts to end chronic homelessness, the evaluation team summarizes its recommendations from throughout this document into five focus areas. We recommend focusing on the following key areas to maximize progress: (1) Holding elected officials accountable, (2) Communicating with stakeholders and the public, (3) Leveraging and increasing resources, (4) Aligning community efforts, and (5) Expanding capacity.

Holding Elected Officials Accountable

  • Continue to hold City and County officials accountable for implementing the comprehensive homeless plans, including siting PSH developments across the entirety of the County. Continue to track each City Council member’s pledge to create 222 units of PSH in his or her district.

Communicating with Stakeholders and the Public

  • Strategically communicate to the public the progress of the City and County homelessness strategies as well as obstacles and challenges that the community faces when working to end homelessness. Public communications should include efforts currently underway (by governmental agencies and homeless service providers), progress seen, a timeline for expected progress and visible results, and how the public can help.
  • Work to ensure the public understands what action steps to take if they are concerned about a vulnerable person experiencing homelessness. Manage the public’s expectations for how quickly an outreach team can respond to the request and how long it might take to see change.
  • Create more consistent lines of communication and collaboration to encourage ongoing participation and feedback to strengthen the engagement for local cities as valued partners to engage in the County’s Homelessness Initiative.

Leveraging and Increasing Resources

  • Develop a legislative strategy to influence state and federal policymakers to protect at-risk subsidies and resources and, where possible, increase funding for PSH, including services. On the federal level, focus on advocacy for Housing Choice Vouchers and other subsidy resources, increased funding support for developing PSH, and halting policy changes to Medicaid and the Affordable Care Act that would limit access to healthcare and housing supports and endanger the health and wellbeing of people experiencing homelessness. Local leaders should estimate and articulate their assumptions about state and federal resources available and resources needed to achieve goals related to the homeless plans.
    • Potential Foundation Role: Work to convene and bring community stakeholders together to coordinate efforts to create an aligned state and federal advocacy strategy. Invest in an entity to lead the organization and development of an aligned state and federal advocacy strategy.
    • Potential Foundation Role: Support efforts to coordinate local and national funders to reach out to state and federal policy makers for face-to-face meetings and use those opportunities to educate policy makers about the City and County’s homelessness plans, strategies implemented, and challenges and obstacles faced when trying to end homelessness in Los Angeles.
  • Community leadership should continue to examine PSH unit production goals along with resources needed to produce them. If the number of projected PSH units to be built changes based on available local, state, and federal funding, community leaders need to explain the expected unit production shortfall to the public. For example, if the City of Los Angeles cannot reach its intended goal of developing 10,000 PSH units with HHH funds because of reductions in resources from other sources, then City officials need to communicate why the resources the voters approved will not be sufficient and explain the expected shortfall to the public and publicly discuss the need to secure additional sources of revenue.
  • Continue to explore strategies to identify and prepare land parcels for PSH development, in order to proactively combat NIMBY “Not In My Backyard” sentiment and to expedite the development timeline. For example, HCID may be able to purchase and zone appropriate land parcels and make available properties available to developers through a competitive process. Or elected officials may be able to cultivate support within a general area that would make the process easier once a developer is identified.
    • Potential Foundation Role: Work with community partners to convene active elected officials, community leaders, and key stakeholders to identify the most effective land acquisition and YIMBY “Yes In My Backyard” practices and to further, build, and bolster the efforts of Everyone In. Support efforts to document and disseminate these practices.

Aligning Community Efforts

  • HACLA and HACoLA, along with the smaller PHAs across the County, should continue to explore innovative practices, such as shared housing, to be able to stretch funds further and potentially serve more people. Additionally, PHAs across the County should share best practices and innovations with each other to increase their utilization rates for the vouchers they have committed to permanent housing for people with chronic patterns of homelessness.
  • Community leaders should continue to work to align efforts for reporting and tracking PSH unit production across the County. It may be ideal to capitalize on the work LAHSA already invests in the Housing Inventory Count (HIC), a report required by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), to create a centralized tracking tool for understanding PSH units and pipeline. Such a tool would provide a single, reliable source for up-to-date information about PSH unit production and utilization that would be useful for service providers, CES lead agencies, and the public. Similarly, service providers on the ground should easily be able to supply updates and corrections to inaccurate data.
  • Work across SPAs and within the Policy Council to clarify the boundaries of CES and set expectations for CES Regional Directors to engage outreach workers, crisis/bridge housing providers, RRH providers, PSH providers, and service providers operating within their SPA boundaries. Particularly in cases where the providers are not funded directly by LAHSA or CES, the CES staff struggle to understand their role in coordinating.
    • Potential Foundation Role: Continue to convene and bring CES partners and stakeholders together to discuss expectations, roles, boundaries, and ways to innovate with the resources provided.
  • Clarify the expectations for each CES-funded position. In particular, establishing standards for caseloads will help CES as a whole recognize when the system is overloading providers. Additionally, the Policy Council could provide clarifying guidance to help CES staff understand whether they are ultimately responsible to the whole SPA’s CES implementation or just their own agency. Assuming a broader purview, elevate the role of the Regional CES Directors and Regional Data Coordinators to help establish regional goals, resource inventory, and performance reports.
    • Potential Foundation Role: Continue to be an active listener and engage with other stakeholders to host community convenings to offer a space to problem-solve.
  • In order to monitor the progress of the community’s efforts to end homelessness, HMIS data needs to be available and accessible to community providers, CES regional coordinators, funders, and policy makers. Reports on the City metrics, “active list” reports, and housing match data should be available at both the system-level and at the SPA-level, and potentially at further geographic and population group breakouts. These reports will empower SPA-level CES staff to understand their local implementation as well as the impact of that work on the full system of care in the community. Along with such reports, data sharing models would allow SPA lead agencies to share information securely among their providers and potentially with providers in other SPAs, dependent on data sharing decisions by the CoC.
  • As technical assistance and training efforts begin to scale up, the community will need to be mindful that plans and policies are consistent, strength-based, tailored to needs, and coordinated within and across SPAs.
  • Consider creating efforts to standardize and train on the practices for the models that the community is funding and the development of learning collaboratives among people doing similar jobs throughout the County.
  • City and County officials should consider how siting for temporary shelter structures will be determined to ensure that these structures are not located on City or County-owned land that is also slated for affordable or PSH development. City and County officials will also need to ensure that creating temporary structures does not shift attention from developing the PSH.

Expanding Capacity

  • As decisions are being made about how to increase available crisis shelters and build temporary housing structures efficiently and safely, community leaders should engage and look at best practice models. While there may not be a direct comparison with another city in the United States, there may be models that are used in international disaster relief that could be adapted to meet LA’s need.
    • Potential Foundation Role: The Foundation could leverage its relationships and experience from working internationally to support the City’s Temporary Structures Working Group.
  • Mayor Garcetti and Los Angeles City Council members should consider targeted outreach to city regulatory departments such as the Department of Building and Safety to help expedite the review and approval of the permits required to develop and operate temporary shelter and facilities.
  • Researchers with the Homeless Policy Research Institute should look for opportunities to examine and better understand inflow into homelessness and chronic homelessness, encampments, and the overlap of populations utilizing public systems.
  • Staffing up to meet the scale of resources is the most pressing challenge facing service providers as 2017 closes. The community should maximize creative partnerships with local colleges, vocational schools, and universities, as well as formerly homeless peers, to meet the incredible need for service providers. In order to ensure the staff reflects the diversity of the population experiencing homelessness, the community may need to explore supporting under-resourced recent graduates with educational costs or tuition forgiveness, to the extent the vacancies require higher education. To ensure longevity of staff, the positions will need to be appropriately compensated and offer upward mobility.
    • Potential Foundation Role: The Funders Collaborative offers a unique opportunity to try creative and long-term strategies to fill staffing needs. The private partners, in particular, may be well-suited to taking the time to develop ongoing relationships with educational institutions.
  • Consider a staged assessment approach. Providers are reporting being overwhelmed by the number of assessments and assessed clients. A staged assessment might allow for a better match between the level of effort put into conducting an assessment and the level of resource available to provide to the person experiencing homelessness.
  • In addition to building the pipeline for skilled staff, the community will need to expand and maintain ongoing training to existing staff.

 

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