oversight

Homelessness: Fragmentation and Overlap in Programs Highlight the Need to Identify, Assess, and Reduce Inefficiencies

Published by the Government Accountability Office on 2012-05-10.

Below is a raw (and likely hideous) rendition of the original report. (PDF)

             United States Government Accountability Office

GAO          Report to Congressional Committees




May 2012
             HOMELESSNESS

             Fragmentation and
             Overlap in Programs
             Highlight the Need to
             Identify, Assess, and
             Reduce Inefficiencies




GAO-12-491
                                            May 2012

                                            HOMELESSNESS
                                            Fragmentation and Overlap in Programs Highlight the Need
                                            to Identify, Assess, and Reduce Inefficiencies
Highlights of GAO-12-491, a report to
congressional committees




Why GAO Did This Study                      What GAO Found
Federal programs for those                  Homelessness programs are fragmented across multiple agencies and some
experiencing or at risk for                 show evidence of overlap. In fiscal year 2010, eight federal agencies obligated
homelessness generally are designed         roughly $2.8 billion to administer 26 homelessness programs. Three agencies—
to provide housing assistance and           the Departments of Health and Human Services (HHS), Housing and Urban
other services such as health care, job     Development (HUD), and Veterans Affairs (VA)—are responsible for the majority
training, or food assistance. This report   of programs and dollars, 22 of 26 programs, and 89 percent of total funds. GAO
responds to the statutory requirement       found that these agencies and the Department of Labor (Labor) have multiple
that GAO identify federal programs,         programs that offer similar services to similar beneficiaries. Fragmentation of
agencies, offices, and initiatives that
                                            services and overlap in some programs is partly due to their legislative creation
have duplicative goals or activities and
                                            and partly due to programs evolving to offer services that meet the variety of
addresses (1) the number of and
funding levels for federal
                                            needs of persons experiencing homelessness. Fragmentation and overlap can
homelessness programs and the               lead to inefficient use of resources. For example, both HHS and VA have
extent to which fragmentation, overlap,     programs that provide similar services, but each agency separately manages its
and duplication exists; (2) whether the     programs under different administrative units. In addition, some local service
programs have been evaluated; and           providers told us that managing multiple applications and reporting requirements
(3) actions of the Interagency Council      was burdensome, difficult, and costly. Moreover, according to providers, persons
and federal agencies to coordinate          experiencing homelessness have difficulties navigating services that are
efforts and the extent to which the         fragmented across agencies.
federal strategic plan to prevent and
                                            While almost all targeted programs maintain performance information (including
end homelessness is an effective
strategy. To address these objectives,      data on the number of homeless served), few targeted programs have conducted
GAO sent questionnaires to10 federal        evaluations to assess how effectively the programs are achieving their
agencies and obtained and analyzed          objectives. While performance information can be helpful for monitoring whether
data for a range of programs.               programs were achieving desired results, evaluations allow for comprehensive
                                            assessments. According to GAO’s questionnaire, 2 of the 26 programs reported
                                            they had a program evaluation within the last 5 years. Information from program
What GAO Recommends
                                            evaluations can help agencies fully assess what is working and how
The Interagency Council and the Office      improvements can be made. Moreover, understanding program performance and
of Management and Budget––in                effectiveness is key to determining in which programs and interventions to
conjunction with HHS, HUD, Labor,           strategically invest limited federal funds.
and VA, should further analyze the
degree and effects of overlap and           The U.S. Interagency Council on Homelessness (Interagency Council) is
fragmentation. VA agreed with this          required to coordinate the federal response to homelessness and has taken
recommendation. HHS, HUD, Labor,            several steps to coordinate efforts and promote initiatives across federal
and the Council did not explicitly agree    agencies. Federal coordination efforts have increased in recent years and
or disagree. We also recommended            included issuing the first federal strategic plan, increasing coordination at the
that the Council incorporate additional     state and local levels by focusing on the creation of state interagency councils on
elements into updates to the federal        homelessness, and taking steps to develop a common vocabulary for discussing
strategic plan or in implementation and     homelessness and related terms. The strategic plan serves as a useful and
planning documents. The Council             necessary step in increasing agency coordination and incorporates some
stated it has been setting priorities and   elements of an effective strategy, but lacks key characteristics desirable in a
measuring progress, but was unable to       national strategy. For example, the plan does not list priorities or milestones and
provide documentation. GAO                  does not discuss resource needs or assign clear roles and responsibilities to
maintains its position and that the         federal partners. In order for the Interagency Council and its members to
implementation of the federal strategic
                                            effectively translate the goals and objectives of the plan into actions and measure
plan be made more transparent.
                                            their own progress in implementing them, these elements must be made
                                            transparent to help ensure accountability and measure the plan’s progress.
View GAO-12-491. For more information,
contact Alicia Puente Cackley at
(202) 512-8678 or cackleya@gao.gov.
                                                                                    United States Government Accountability Office
Contents


Letter                                                                                     1
                Background                                                                 4
                Homelessness Programs Address a Variety of Needs, but Result in
                  Fragmentation and Overlap of Services                                    7
                Programs Maintain Performance Information, but Program
                  Evaluations Are Limited                                                22
                While Federal Coordination Efforts Have Increased, Strategic Plan
                  Could Be Improved                                                      28
                Conclusions                                                              36
                Recommendations for Executive Action                                     37
                Agency Comments and Our Evaluation                                       37

Appendix I      Objectives, Scope, and Methodology                                        41



Appendix II     Mainstream Programs That Persons Experiencing Homelessness
                Can Access                                                                50



Appendix III    Performance Information for 26 Targeted Programs                          56



Appendix IV     Comments from the Department of Health and Human Services                 58



Appendix V      Comments from the Department of Homeland Security                         62



Appendix VI     Comments from the Department of Housing and Urban Development             63



Appendix VII    Comments from the Department of Labor                                     66



Appendix VIII   Comments from the Department of Veterans Affairs                          68




                Page i                               GAO-12-491 Federal Homelessness Programs
Appendix IX   Comments from the United States Interagency Council
              on Homelessness                                                           70



Appendix X    GAO Contact and Staff Acknowledgments                                     73



Tables
              Table 1: Targeted Federal Homelessness Programs and
                       Descriptions, Fiscal Year 2011                                    8
              Table 2: Federal Obligations for 26 Homelessness Programs, Fiscal
                       Year 2010                                                       10
              Table 3: Summary of Desirable Characteristics for a National
                       Strategy                                                        48
              Table 4: Mainstream Programs That Persons Experiencing
                       Homelessness Can Access                                         50
              Table 5: Performance Information Collected, by Program                   56


Figures
              Figure 1: Percentage of Obligations for Homelessness Programs by
                       Agency, Fiscal Year 2010                                        12
              Figure 2: Fragmentation of Services in Homelessness Programs
                       across Agencies, Fiscal Year 2011                               14
              Figure 3: Populations Served by Homelessness Programs, Fiscal
                       Year 2011                                                       15
              Figure 4: Overlap in Program Services to the General Homeless or
                       At-Risk Population, Fiscal Year 2011                            17
              Figure 5: Overlap in Program Services to Homeless Veterans, Fiscal
                       Year 2011                                                       19
              Figure 6: Overlap in Program Services to Homeless Children and
                       Youth, Fiscal Year 2011                                         20
              Figure 7: Extent to Which the Strategic Plan to Prevent and End
                       Homelessness Addresses Characteristics of an Effective
                       National Strategy, as of May 2012                               33




              Page ii                              GAO-12-491 Federal Homelessness Programs
Abbreviations
Education                     Department of Education
FEMA                          Federal Emergency Management Administration
GSA                           General Services Administration
HEARTH Act                    Homeless Emergency Assistance and Rapid
                              Transition to Housing Act
HHS                           Department of Health and Human Services
HMIS                          Homelessness Management Information
                              Systems
HUD                           Department of Housing and Urban Development
Interagency Council           U.S. Interagency Council on Homelessness
Justice                       Department of Justice
Labor                         Department of Labor
VA                            Department of Veterans Affairs

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Page iii                                      GAO-12-491 Federal Homelessness Programs
United States Government Accountability Office
Washington, DC 20548




                                   May 10, 2012

                                   The Honorable Tim Johnson
                                   Chairman
                                   The Honorable Richard C. Shelby
                                   Ranking Member
                                   Committee on Banking, Housing,
                                     and Urban Affairs
                                   United States Senate

                                   The Honorable Spencer Bachus
                                   Chairman
                                   The Honorable Barney Frank
                                   Ranking Member
                                   Committee on Financial Services
                                   House of Representatives

                                   In recent years, increasing attention has been paid to the issue of
                                   homelessness, in part because the economic downturn has placed more
                                   individuals and households at risk for homelessness. Evidence suggests
                                   that the number of those entering shelters has remained constant, but
                                   there has been an increase in the number of people living with family or
                                   friends. According to Department of Housing and Urban Development
                                   (HUD) estimates, on a single night in January 2011, approximately
                                   636,000 people experienced homelessness. A number of federal
                                   agencies and programs specifically target assistance for those persons
                                   experiencing homelessness or at risk for homelessness, while other
                                   programs, referred to as “mainstream,” more broadly assist low-income
                                   populations. Both targeted and mainstream programs can offer housing
                                   assistance, and supportive services such as food assistance, health care,
                                   or job training. 1 As we previously reported, the wide range of programs
                                   that federal agencies offer has resulted in a fragmented service system;
                                   that is, more than one federal agency is involved in the same broad area
                                   of national interest. 2 A fragmented service system could lead to some


                                   1
                                    In this report, we use “supportive services” to include all nonhousing services that may
                                   assist persons experiencing homelessness.
                                   2
                                    See GAO, Opportunities to Reduce Potential Duplication in Government Programs, Save
                                   Tax Dollars, and Enhance Revenue, GAO-11-318SP (Washington, D.C.: Mar. 1, 2011),
                                   129-133.




                                   Page 1                                         GAO-12-491 Federal Homelessness Programs
programs offering similar services and serving similar populations, and
thus to inefficiencies in program administration and service delivery
across the federal government. As a result, effective coordination of
fragmented service systems is essential.

This report responds to the statutory requirement that GAO identify and
annually report on federal programs, agencies, offices, and initiatives that
have duplicative goals or activities. 3 It addresses (1) the number of and
funding levels for federal homelessness programs and the extent to which
fragmentation, overlap, and duplication exists; (2) whether the programs
have been evaluated; and (3) actions of the U.S. Interagency Council on
Homelessness (Interagency Council) and federal agencies to coordinate
federal efforts and the extent to which the federal strategic plan to prevent
and end homelessness is an effective strategy.

To gather information on federal homelessness programs and assess
fragmentation, overlap, and duplication, we developed structured
questionnaires and obtained information from 10 federal agencies that
administer programs for persons experiencing homelessness. We
identified programs that were specifically designed to assist the homeless
(targeted) or programs that more broadly assist low-income populations
but which people experiencing homelessness may access (mainstream). 4
We defined a targeted program as one that provided assistance
exclusively to those persons experiencing homelessness or at risk for
homelessness in fiscal year 2011. We defined a mainstream program as
one that (1) was in operation as of fiscal year 2011, (2) included persons
experiencing homelessness or at risk for homelessness as part of the
population served, (3) provided services that benefit the homeless that
are similar or complementary to those offered by targeted programs, and
that (4) agency officials identified to be critical in meeting the needs of the
homeless. We ultimately obtained and analyzed data for 26 targeted and
62 mainstream programs. The structured questionnaires asked questions
about program goals and objectives, target populations, services offered,
performance information and evaluations, and funding. To help assess
the reliability of the information we received, we incorporated questions
about the reliability of the programs’ data and financial systems,


3
Pub. L. No. 111-139, § 21, 124 Stat. 29 (2010), 31 U.S.C. § 712 Note.
4
 We obtained information from eight agencies that administered targeted and mainstream
programs and an additional two agencies that administered only mainstream programs.




Page 2                                      GAO-12-491 Federal Homelessness Programs
conducted internal reliability checks, and conducted follow-up as
necessary with agency staff. While we did not verify all responses, we
determined that the data used in our report were sufficiently reliable for
our purposes. We excluded programs that did not meet our definitions; for
example, this report does not include all mainstream programs that can
serve persons experiencing homelessness because they did not meet all
the criteria in our definition. To gather additional information about the
programs, we met with agency officials who oversee the programs and
conducted three site visits to obtain information on how local communities
implement programs and deliver services (New York, New York; San
Francisco, California; and Washington, D.C.). We selected these
locations based on the variety of targeted programs, size of the homeless
population, and geography. Finally, we reviewed relevant federal laws
and regulations as well as our previous work on homelessness
programs. 5 To review the coordination efforts of the Interagency Council
and federal agencies and the extent to which the national strategic plan
addresses the characteristics of an effective national strategy, we
analyzed the council’s coordination responsibilities, obtained examples of
coordination actions from the council and federal agencies, interviewed
agency officials, and analyzed the strategy. We assessed the strategy to
determine how well it addressed the six desirable characteristics of an
effective national strategy that we developed in previous work. 6

We conducted this performance audit from June 2011 through May 2012,
in accordance with generally accepted government auditing standards.
Those standards require that we plan and perform the audit to obtain
sufficient, appropriate evidence to provide a reasonable basis for our


5
 See GAO, Rural Homelessness: Better Collaboration by HHS and HUD Could Improve
Delivery of Services in Rural Areas, GAO-10-724 (Washington, D.C.: July 20, 2010);
Homelessness: A Common Vocabulary Could Help Agencies Collaborate and Collect
More Consistent Data, GAO-10-702 (Washington, D.C.: June 30, 2010); and
GAO-11-318SP.
6
 See GAO, Combating Terrorism: Evaluation of Selected Characteristics in National
Strategies Related to Terrorism, GAO-04-408T (Washington, D.C.: Feb. 3, 2004);
Financial Literacy and Education Commission: Further Progress Needed to Ensure an
Effective National Strategy, GAO-07-100 (Washington, D.C.: Dec. 4, 2006); Influenza
Pandemic: Further Efforts Are Needed to Ensure Clearer Federal Leadership Roles and
an Effective National Strategy, GAO-07-781 (Washington, D.C.: Aug. 14, 2007); Maritime
Security: National Strategy and Supporting Plans Were Generally Well-Developed and
Are Being Implemented, GAO-08-672 (Washington, D.C.: June 20, 2008), and National
Capital Region: 2010 Strategic Plan is Generally Consistent With Characteristics of
Effective Strategies, GAO-12-276T (Washington, D.C.: Dec. 7, 2011).




Page 3                                      GAO-12-491 Federal Homelessness Programs
                      findings and conclusions based on our audit objectives. We believe that
                      the evidence obtained provides a reasonable basis for our findings and
                      conclusions based on our audit objectives. See appendix I for a more
                      detailed description of our scope and methodology.



Background
Role of Interagency   Congress established the Interagency Council in 1987 under the
Council and Recent    McKinney-Vento Homeless Assistance Act as an independent
Changes               establishment to provide federal leadership for activities to assist
                      homeless families and individuals. 7 Initially the main functions of the
                      council revolved around using public resources and programs in a more
                      coordinated manner to meet the needs of those experiencing
                      homelessness. From 1994 to 2000 the council operated as a working
                      group of the White House Domestic Policy Council. An executive director,
                      who is appointed by the council members and reports directly to the
                      Interagency Council’s chairperson, manages the daily activities of the
                      council. Since 1987, there have been several executive directors with the
                      most recent appointed in November 2009. Additionally, the council elects
                      a chairperson and a vice chairperson from its members and the positions
                      rotate among member agencies annually. The current members of the
                      Interagency Council include the heads of 19 departments and agencies. 8

                      The most recent reauthorization of the council occurred in 2009 when
                      Congress enacted the Homeless Emergency Assistance and Rapid
                      Transition to Housing Act (HEARTH Act). 9 The HEARTH Act included



                      7
                       The Interagency Council was established by title II of the McKinney-Vento Act, Pub. L.
                      No. 100-77 § 201, as the “Interagency Council on the Homeless.” In 2004, Congress
                      renamed it the “United States Interagency Council on Homelessness.” Pub. L. No. 108-
                      199, Division G, § 216 (Jan. 23, 2004).
                      8
                       The members of the Interagency Council are from the Departments of Agriculture,
                      Commerce, Defense, Education, Energy, Health and Human Services, Homeland
                      Security, Housing and Urban Development, Interior, Justice, Labor, Transportation, and
                      Veterans Affairs; Corporation for National and Community Service; General Services
                      Administration; Office of Management and Budget; Social Security Administration; U.S.
                      Postal Service; and the White House Office of Faith-Based and Community Initiatives
                      (now known as the White House Office of Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships).
                      9
                      Pub. L. No. 111-22 § 1001, et seq. (May 20, 2009).




                      Page 4                                        GAO-12-491 Federal Homelessness Programs
several new responsibilities and directed the council to coordinate the
federal response to homelessness and create a national partnership at
every level of government and with the private sector to reduce and end
homelessness. The HEARTH Act also requires the council to take several
actions related to coordination and information dissemination, and includes
various reporting requirements. For example, the Interagency Council must

•   develop and annually update a federal strategic plan to end
    homelessness;

•   review all federal activities and programs to assist homeless
    individuals;

•   take actions that may be necessary to reduce duplication among
    federal homelessness programs and activities;

•   monitor, evaluate, and recommend improvements in programs and
    activities to assist homeless individuals conducted by federal agencies,
    state and local governments, and private voluntary organizations;

•   provide professional and technical assistance to states, local
    governments, and other public and private nonprofit organizations;

•   encourage the creation of State Interagency Councils on
    Homelessness and the formulation of jurisdictional 10-year plans to
    end homelessness at state, city, and county levels;

•   obtain from federal agencies resources for which persons
    experiencing homelessness may be eligible and improvements to
    ensure access and develop mechanisms to ensure access by persons
    experiencing homelessness to programs for which they are eligible,
    and verify collaboration among entities within communities;

•   conduct research and evaluation related to its functions;

•   develop joint federal agency and other initiatives to fulfill the goals of
    the agency and collect and disseminate information relating to
    homeless individuals;

•   prepare annual reports;

•   develop constructive alternatives to criminalizing homelessness; and

•   convene a meeting of experts to discuss all issues relevant to the
    definitions of “homeless” and the extent to which the differences in




Page 5                                  GAO-12-491 Federal Homelessness Programs
                               such definitions create barriers for individuals in accessing services
                               and issue transcripts and recommendations. 10

                          In fiscal year 2012, Congress appropriated $3.3 million for the Interagency
                          Council to carry out its responsibilities. In that year, the council had 18 full-
                          time employees, with staff based in Washington, D.C. and four regional
                          positions.


Definitions of            The HEARTH Act changed the definition of homelessness for several
Homelessness              federal programs. As described in our June 2010 report, federal programs
                          define homelessness differently. 11 The HEARTH Act broadened the
                          general definition of homelessness because it expanded who is eligible for
                          various HUD-funded homeless assistance programs. For example, the act
                          adds a new category of homelessness, unaccompanied youth and families
                          with children and youth who are defined as homeless under other federal
                          statutes (such as the Runaway and Homeless Youth Act and the Head
                          Start Act). 12 As a result, persons meeting other federal statutes’ broader
                          definitions of homelessness also can be eligible for HUD programs.


Our Work on               In 2010, Congress directed us to identify programs, agencies, offices, and
Fragmentation, Overlap,   initiatives with duplicative goals and activities within departments and
and Duplication           governmentwide and report annually to Congress. 13 In March 2011 and
                          February 2012, we issued our first two annual reports to Congress in
                          response to this requirement. 14 The annual reports describe areas in
                          which we found evidence of fragmentation, overlap, or duplication among



                          10
                           42 U.S.C. 11313.
                          11
                           See GAO-10-702.
                          12
                           42 U.S.C. 5701 et seq. and 42 U.S.C. 9831 et seq.
                          13
                           Pub. L. No. 111-139, § 21, 124 Stat. 29 (2010), 31 U.S.C. § 712 Note.
                          14
                            See GAO-11-318SP and 2012 Annual Report: Opportunities to Reduce Duplication,
                          Overlap and Fragmentation, Achieve Savings, and Enhance Revenue, GAO-12-342SP
                          (Washington, D.C.: Feb. 28, 2012). Homelessness programs were not covered in detail in
                          GAO-12-342SP. We also covered homelessness programs in our follow-up to the 2011
                          report, see GAO, Status of Actions Taken to Reduce Duplication, Overlap, and
                          Fragmentation, Save Tax Dollars, and Enhance Revenue, GAO-12-453SP (Washington,
                          D.C.: Feb 28, 2012), 49.




                          Page 6                                      GAO-12-491 Federal Homelessness Programs
                        federal programs. Using the framework established in the reports, the key
                        terms are defined as follows:

                        •    Fragmentation occurs when more than one federal agency (or more
                             than one organization within an agency) is involved in the same broad
                             area of national interest.

                        •    Overlap occurs when multiple programs have similar goals and
                             activities, and offer similar services to similar beneficiaries.

                        •    Duplication occurs when two or more agencies or programs are
                             engaging in the same activities or providing the same services to the
                             same beneficiaries.

                        For homelessness programs, we noted in the March 2011 report that
                        better coordination of programs could minimize inefficiencies that may
                        stem from fragmentation and overlap. We discussed the work of the
                        Interagency Council and noted the development of its strategic plan. We
                        concluded that while federal agencies have taken some positive steps to
                        improve coordination of programs and reduce fragmentation and overlap,
                        more needed to be done.


                        Eight agencies—HHS, HUD, the Departments of Education (Education),
Homelessness            Labor (Labor), Justice (Justice), Veterans Affairs (VA), the Federal
Programs Address a      Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), and the General Services
                        Administration (GSA)—administered 26 targeted homelessness programs
Variety of Needs, but   in fiscal year 2011. 15 That is, they administered programs that exclusively
Result in               assisted persons who were homeless or at risk for homelessness (see
Fragmentation and       table 1). However, three agencies—HHS, HUD, and VA—were responsible
                        for the majority of these programs (22 of 26). HUD was the primary agency
Overlap of Services     providing funding for housing, such as emergency shelters, permanent
                        housing, and transitional housing. HHS and VA typically operated
                        programs or provided funding for supportive services such as health care,
                        substance abuse treatment, and employment assistance. However, most
                        VA programs and services are only available to men and women who have
                        served in the military and have been discharged under honorable or
                        general circumstances. Of the 26 programs, three programs provide



                        15
                          FEMA is an agency within the Department of Homeland Security, which is a member of
                        the Interagency Council.




                        Page 7                                     GAO-12-491 Federal Homelessness Programs
                                           surplus federal properties to eligible homeless service providers and one
                                           program provides personal property to veterans experiencing
                                           homelessness.

Table 1: Targeted Federal Homelessness Programs and Descriptions, Fiscal Year 2011

Agency         Program name                                 Description
VA (11)        Domiciliary Care for Homeless Veterans       Provides residential treatment to homeless veterans with health care and
               Program                                      social-vocational deficits.
               Homeless Providers Grants and Per Diem       Awards grants to community-based agencies for transitional housing,
               Program                                      outreach, rehabilitative services, and vocational counseling and training;
                                                            and offers per diem payments.
               Health Care for Homeless Veterans            Performs outreach to identify homeless veterans eligible for VA services
               Program                                      and assists them in accessing appropriate health care and benefits.
               Homeless Veterans Dental Program             Provides dental care to eligible homeless veterans.
               National Call Center for Homeless            Assists homeless veterans and their families through a 24-hour hotline.
               Veterans
               Stand Downs                                  Conducts 1- to 3-day outreach events that involve a broad range of
                                                            community providers. Services include food, clothing, benefits
                                                            assistance, linkages to shelter and treatment programs, medical and
                                                            mental health screenings, and referrals.
               Acquired Property Sales for Homeless         Offers discounted prices on VA properties acquired through foreclosure
                         a
               Providers                                    to qualified nonprofit organizations that will offer the properties as
                                                            shelters to homeless veterans.
               Excess Property for Homeless Veterans        Helps distribute excess personal property, such as hats, parkas,
               Initiative                                   footwear, and other items.
               Regional Office Homeless Veterans            Provides information and assistance on VA benefits and services
               Outreach Activities                          through outreach.
               Homeless Veteran Supported                   Provides vocational and employment services.
               Employment Program
               Preventing Veteran Homelessness              Provides financial counseling for veterans with VA-guaranteed or
               through Mortgage Foreclosure Assistance      conventional loans to help ensure that veterans receive consideration of
                                                            all possible options to avoid foreclosure.
HHS (5)        Projects for Assistance in Transition from   Provides grants to state and territories for community-based outreach,
               Homelessness                                 mental health, substance abuse, and other supportive services, including
                                                            limited housing to individuals with serious mental illness who are
                                                            experiencing or at risk of homelessness.
               Runaway and Homeless Youth                   Provides temporary emergency shelter and permanent housing for
                        b
               Programs                                     youths and residential services to help them transition to self-sufficiency.
               Health Care for the Homeless                 Provides outreach to homeless individuals and families to provide
                                                            primary care and substance abuse services.
               Grants for the Benefit of Homeless           Provides grants to communities to expand and strengthen their treatment
               Individuals                                  services for persons who are homeless or at risk of homelessness with
                                                            mental health disorders, substance use disorders, or co-occurring mental
                                                            and substance use disorders in coordination with stable housing
                                                            programs and resources.




                                           Page 8                                         GAO-12-491 Federal Homelessness Programs
Agency          Program name                                       Description
                Services in Supportive Housing Grants              Provides treatment and supportive services to people experiencing
                                                                   chronic homelessness and severe mental illness or co-occurring mental
                                                                   and substance abuse disorders in coordination with permanent
                                                                   supportive housing programs and resources.
HUD (3)         Homeless Assistance Grantsc                        Provides emergency shelter facilities, transitional and permanent
                                                                   housing with supportive services, or rental assistance for homeless
                                                                   individuals or homeless persons with disabilities.
                Homelessness Prevention and Rapid                  Provides homelessness prevention assistance and assistance to rapidly
                Re-Housing Program                                 re-house persons who are homeless.
                Base Realignment and Closure Programa              Provides surplus properties, at no cost to representatives of the
                                                                   homeless, for homeless assistance use.
Education (1)   Education for Homeless Children and                Helps ensure that homeless children and youths have equal access to
                Youths                                             free and appropriate public education and facilitates their enrollment,
                                                                   attendance, and success in school.
FEMA (1)        Emergency Food and Shelter Program                 Supplements and expands ongoing efforts to provide shelter, food, and
                                                                   supportive services to needy families and individuals.
Justice (1)     Transitional Housing Assistance Grants             Provides transitional housing, housing assistance, and supportive
                for Victims of Sexual Assault , Domestic           services to those fleeing domestic violence, dating violence, sexual
                Violence, Dating Violence, and Stalking            assault, or stalking; and for whom emergency shelter services or other
                Program                                            crisis intervention services are not sufficient.
Labor (1)       Homeless Veterans Reintegration                    Provides services to assist in reintegrating homeless veterans into
                Program                                            meaningful employment.
Multiple        HUD-VA Supportive Housing (HUD-                    Provides section 8 Housing Choice Vouchers and case management
agencies (3)    VASH)d                                             and supportive services to eligible homeless veterans.
                Veterans Homeless Prevention                       Offers early intervention homelessness prevention, primarily to veterans
                                      e
                Demonstration Program                              returning from wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.
                Federal Surplus Real Property (Title V)a,f         Provides surplus federal properties that can be used to help homeless
                                                                   persons.
                                            Source: GAO analysis of agency information.

                                            Note: VA staff told us the Supportive Services for Veteran Families Program made grant agreements
                                            in September 2011, but stated no services were provided prior to the end of the fiscal year. VA staff
                                            did not complete a questionnaire for this program because they told us the program was not in
                                            operation in fiscal year 2011. Our review excludes this program.
                                            a
                                             These programs provide different properties to eligible homeless service providers but do not directly
                                            provide services for persons experiencing homelessness.
                                            b
                                             Runaway and Homeless Youth Programs include the Basic Center Program, Transitional Living
                                            Program, Street Outreach Program, and Maternity Group Home Program.
                                            c
                                            Homeless Assistance Grants include the Emergency Solutions Grant Program, Supportive Housing
                                            Program, Shelter Plus Care Program, and Single Room Occupancy Program.
                                            d
                                                HUD-VASH is jointly administered by HUD and VA.
                                            e
                                                The demonstration program is jointly administered by HUD, Labor, and VA.
                                            f
                                             The Federal Surplus Real Property (Title V) program is jointly administered by HHS, HUD, and GSA.




                                            Page 9                                               GAO-12-491 Federal Homelessness Programs
Multiple Agencies                          According to the most recently available data (fiscal year 2010), federal
Administered 26 Targeted                   agencies reported obligations of $2.8 billion for the 26 targeted programs.
Homelessness Programs                      Individual program obligations ranged from $475,000 to $1.4 billion (see
                                           table 2). 16 HUD’s Homeless Assistance Grants, the largest program,
and Obligated $2.8 Billion
                                           accounted for 50 percent of overall federal spending commitments. Eight
in Fiscal Year 2010                        programs had obligations of more than $100 million each, and 10
                                           programs had obligations between $1 million and $100 million.

Table 2: Federal Obligations for 26 Homelessness Programs, Fiscal Year 2010

                                                                                             Fiscal year 2010         Assistance
Agency         Program                                                                            obligations       through grants
HUD            Homeless Assistance Grants                                                     $1,379,155,000               X
FEMA           Emergency Food and Shelter Program                                                 200,000,000              X
HHS            Health Care for the Homeless                                                       185,066,000              X
VA             Domiciliary Care for Homeless Veterans Programa                                    175,979,000
VA             Homeless Providers Grants and Per Diem Program                                     175,057,000              X
                                                          b
HUD and VA     HUD-VA Supportive Housing (HUD-VASH)                                               147,046,192
HHS            Runaway and Homeless Youth Programs                                                115,705,000              X
VA             Health Care for Homeless Veterans Program                                          109,727,000
Education      Education for Homeless Children and Youths                                          65,427,000              X
HHS            Projects for Assistance in Transition from Homelessness                             65,047,000              X
Labor          Homeless Veterans Reintegration Program                                             35,888,000              X
HHS            Grants for the Benefit of Homeless Individuals                                      35,560,000              X
HHS            Services in Supportive Housing Grants                                               32,264,000              X
VA             Preventing Veteran Homelessness through Mortgage Foreclosure                        29,565,000
               Assistance
VA             Homeless Veterans Dental Program                                                    17,530,000
Justice        Transitional Housing Assistance Grants for Victims of Sexual Assault,               15,304,802              X
               Domestic Violence, Dating Violence, and Stalking Program
VA             National Call Center for Homeless Veterans                                           2,410,000
VA             Regional Office Homeless Veterans Outreach Activities                                1,908,000
                            c
VA             Stand Downs                                                                            786,000
HHS, HUD,      Federal Surplus Real Property (Title V)d                                               613,000
and GSA
VA             Excess Property for Homeless Veterans Initiative                                       475,000



                                           16
                                             Obligations are defined as definite commitments that create a legal liability of the
                                           government for the payment of goods and services ordered or received.




                                           Page 10                                         GAO-12-491 Federal Homelessness Programs
                                                                                                   Fiscal year 2010           Assistance
Agency        Program                                                                                   obligations         through grants
HUD           Homelessness Prevention and Rapid Re-Housing Programe                                                  0               X
HUD           Base Realignment and Closure Programf                                                                  0
VA            Acquired Property Sales for Homeless Providersg                                                        0
                                                                         h
VA            Homeless Veteran Supported Employment Program                                                          0
HUD, Labor,   Veterans Homeless Prevention Demonstration Programh                                                    0               X
and VA
Total                                                                                                $2,790,512,994           13 programs
                                        Source: Each agency reported obligation amounts to GAO.
                                        a
                                        VA told us the amount represents direct and indirect costs including veterans’ total health care costs
                                        while in the program.
                                        b
                                            HUD and VA reported obligations of $76 and $71 million, respectively.
                                        c
                                         Labor told us they have been involved in Stand Downs as well, but any funds obligated from Labor
                                        are included in the reported amount for the Homeless Veterans Reintegration Program.
                                        d
                                         HUD told us no funds were obligated and the only costs incurred were for a contractor to update a
                                        data system. Therefore, the figure includes obligations as reported by HHS and GSA only.
                                        e
                                            HUD told us the funds for this program, roughly $1.5 billion, were obligated in fiscal year 2009.
                                        f
                                        HUD told us no funds were awarded or contracted for this program.
                                        g
                                         VA reported no obligations because the program receives foreclosed properties and sells a minimal
                                        number to nonprofit organizations that provide shelter to veterans and their families.
                                        h
                                            VA and HUD reported that the program was new and no funds were obligated in fiscal year 2010.


                                        The majority of obligations were committed for grants––13 of the 26
                                        programs offered grants, totaling about $2.3 billion in obligations for fiscal
                                        year 2010. 17 These grants were generally distributed on a formula or a
                                        project basis. Formula grants are noncompetitive awards based on a
                                        predetermined formula. Project grants award funds for fixed periods of
                                        time for specific projects.

                                        HUD, HHS, and VA administered most of the targeted programs and
                                        accounted for 89 percent of the federal funds obligated (see fig. 1).




                                        17
                                          Most programs provide assistance through grants, meaning federal agencies provide
                                        funds to states, localities, or nonprofit organizations that in turn provide homelessness
                                        services. Some programs provide assistance through properties, meaning federal
                                        properties are transferred or sold to entities that in turn provide homelessness services.




                                        Page 11                                                   GAO-12-491 Federal Homelessness Programs
Figure 1: Percentage of Obligations for Homelessness Programs by Agency, Fiscal
Year 2010




Note: Obligations for programs administered by two or more agencies (for example, the HUD-VASH
program) are included in each agency’s portion of the pie chart. For instance, HUD’s obligations for
the HUD-VASH program are included in the 52 percent.


Finally, in addition to targeted programs, several federal agencies provide
assistance through mainstream programs—programs that broadly assist
low-income populations. For example, the Temporary Assistance for
Needy Families, Head Start, and Public Housing programs are designed
for low-income populations but provide services to people experiencing
homelessness as well. See appendix II for a list of mainstream programs,
descriptions, and other information. 18




18
  As previously discussed, this report does not include all mainstream programs that can
serve homeless people because some programs did not meet all the criteria included in
our definition.




Page 12                                             GAO-12-491 Federal Homelessness Programs
Evidence Suggests        Figure 2 shows that multiple agencies manage several similar
Fragmentation and Some   homelessness programs, suggesting fragmentation and some overlap.
Overlap                  Further, agencies deliver several different types of services to persons
                         experiencing homelessness. For example, HUD not only administers
                         housing assistance, but also provides funding for mental health care,
                         substance abuse treatment, and employment services. Similarly, HHS
                         and VA administer programs that provide housing and employment
                         assistance. Fragmentation and overlap in some programs have been
                         caused in part by their legislative creation as separate programs under
                         the jurisdiction of several agencies. This fragmentation of services may
                         be advantageous because agencies can tailor programs to suit specific
                         needs of persons experiencing homelessness. Additionally, according to
                         HHS, fragmented services are the result of providing comprehensive care
                         to a population with complex, varying needs. However, fragmentation can
                         also lead to inefficiencies.

                         Fragmentation of services was most apparent in three agencies––HHS,
                         HUD, and VA—that administered most of the programs and also offered
                         the most types of services (see fig. 2). In particular, service fragmentation
                         was most apparent for transportation and case management. According
                         to agency staff, case management is necessary in most programs to
                         provide linkages and referrals to other services as needed. In contrast,
                         fragmentation was least apparent for permanent housing, income
                         support, primary health care, and dental care services.




                         Page 13                                GAO-12-491 Federal Homelessness Programs
Figure 2: Fragmentation of Services in Homelessness Programs across Agencies,
Fiscal Year 2011




a
 Programs provide different properties to eligible homeless service providers that can be used to help
persons experiencing homelessness.


Some programs served the general homeless population while others
assisted specific populations (see fig. 3). For example, 17 of the 26
targeted programs served specific populations, most commonly veterans
(14 programs). According to questionnaire responses, while the programs
exclusively served specific populations, the individuals served also may
have had additional characteristics such as substance abuse disorders or
disabilities. As stated previously, most VA programs and services are only
available to men and women who have served in the military and have
been discharged under honorable or general circumstances.



Page 14                                             GAO-12-491 Federal Homelessness Programs
Figure 3: Populations Served by Homelessness Programs, Fiscal Year 2011




Note: We included programs that assist chronically homeless persons in the general homeless or at-
risk population.


In addition to fragmentation of services, some degree of overlap in
services occurred for programs serving three distinct homeless
populations––the general homeless or at-risk population, veterans, and
children and youth. We differentiated between two types of services:

•   Primary services were stated directly within a program’s goals and
    objectives.

•   Other eligible services were indicated by agency staff as services or
    activities the program is eligible to provide.

More specifically, we found two different types of overlap––instances
when programs offered the same primary service to a similar population
and instances when programs offered other eligible services to a similar
population. Overlap tended to be more prevalent for the “other eligible
services” category. However, the scope of this report did not allow us to


Page 15                                           GAO-12-491 Federal Homelessness Programs
                              gather enough information to fully discuss the degree of overlap among
                              homelessness programs. Agency officials provided explanations about
                              why persons experiencing homelessness often need assistance in areas
                              other than housing, such as health care and employment. For example,
                              HHS staff told us that it was necessary for programs to offer several
                              services—in particular, case management services that provide linkages
                              and referrals to other services as needed. In addition to case
                              management services, agency staff told us it was important for programs
                              to conduct outreach efforts because the population was difficult to reach
                              and the outreach helped ensure access to services. HHS staff also told
                              us that while persons experiencing homelessness may be eligible for
                              services provided by specific programs, resource constraints limit the
                              availability of services. For some programs, such as HUD’s Homeless
                              Assistance Grants or HHS’s Runaway and Homeless Youth Programs,
                              meeting the definition of homelessness does not entitle individuals to
                              benefits because these programs are limited by the amount of funds
                              appropriated for them.

General Homeless or At-Risk   We found program overlap in three HHS programs that provide mental
Population                    health care and substance abuse treatment as primary services (see fig. 4).
                              According to HHS staff, the three programs have distinct differences, such
                              as their statutory authorities, subpopulations served, or living situations.

                              •   Projects for Assistance in Transition from Homelessness provides
                                  services including case management, outreach, community mental
                                  health, and substance abuse treatment services to persons typically
                                  living on the street with serious mental illnesses or co-occurring
                                  disorders (such as substance abuse disorders).

                              •   Services in Supportive Housing Grants primarily provides mental
                                  health care and substance abuse treatment to individuals and families
                                  living in HUD-funded and other permanent supportive housing units.

                              •   Grants for the Benefit of Homeless Individuals provides services to
                                  individuals with mental health disorders, substance use disorders, or
                                  co-occurring mental and substance use disorders and links
                                  individuals to stable housing.




                              Page 16                               GAO-12-491 Federal Homelessness Programs
Figure 4: Overlap in Program Services to the General Homeless or At-Risk Population, Fiscal Year 2011




                                         a
                                          These programs provide different properties to eligible homeless service providers but do not directly
                                         provide services for persons experiencing homelessness.


                                         Overlapping programs can lead to individuals being eligible for similar
                                         services in multiple programs––as is the case with these three HHS
                                         programs. According to the Interagency Council, while it is possible that
                                         individuals may be eligible for multiple programs, it is unlikely that there is
                                         a high occurrence of individuals actually being served by multiple
                                         programs. The scope of this report did not allow us to assess whether
                                         individuals were accessing multiple programs. According to HHS staff, the
                                         agency coordinates its homelessness programs and activities with
                                         biweekly meetings that serve to update and share homelessness program
                                         information across the agency and to discuss new initiatives. According to
                                         the staff, the meetings are one way to help to ensure that HHS’s
                                         homelessness programs complement rather than duplicate one another.

Homeless Veterans                        The services of several programs for veterans overlapped (see fig. 5).
                                         According to agency staff, the programs are distinct in that they serve
                                         different subpopulations, in different settings.

                                         •    Domiciliary Care for Homeless Veterans Program offers mental health
                                              care and substance abuse treatment. The program is an intensive


                                         Page 17                                             GAO-12-491 Federal Homelessness Programs
    residential treatment program that targets veterans with severe
    medical conditions and psychiatric needs and operates at 44 sites
    across the country. As part of its services, the program assists
    veterans in finding transitional or permanent housing options.

•   Homeless Providers Grants and Per Diem Program is a transitional
    housing program that provides supportive services for veterans living
    in the community and operates at roughly 600 sites and veterans may
    reside for up to 24 months. Veterans participating in the Homeless
    Providers Grants and Per Diem Program are connected with VA
    Medical Center services such as primary health care and other clinical
    services.

•   Health Care for Homeless Veterans Program helps get homeless
    veterans off the streets and connects them to VA Medical Center
    services such as primary health care and other clinical services.

•   Homeless Veteran Supported Employment Program uses homeless
    veterans, formerly homeless veterans, or those at risk for
    homelessness to provide rapid, individualized, competitive community
    job placement for currently homeless veterans. These services occur
    within a health care delivery system, which includes assessment of
    employment barriers such as medical, psychiatric, and substance
    abuse.

•   Homeless Veterans Reintegration Program offers employment
    assistance as a primary service. The Labor program offers classroom
    training and job placement with the goal of placing veterans in direct
    employment.




Page 18                               GAO-12-491 Federal Homelessness Programs
Figure 5: Overlap in Program Services to Homeless Veterans, Fiscal Year 2011




                                        a
                                         The Excess Property for Homeless Veterans Initiative helps distribute personal property, while the
                                        Acquired Property Sales for Homeless Providers program sells properties to eligible homeless service
                                        providers that will offer the properties as shelters to homeless veterans.


Homeless Children and Youth             The two programs serving homeless children and youth did not offer the
                                        same primary services, but there is some overlap in other eligible
                                        services offered by these two programs (see fig. 6). Education’s program
                                        focused on offering educational services and case management to
                                        school-age children, while HHS’s Runaway and Homeless Youth
                                        Programs provided housing, case management, and outreach efforts to
                                        youth who run away from home and are living in at-risk situations. 19 The
                                        Runaway and Homeless Youth Programs provide services for severely
                                        at-risk youth, including pregnant and parenting teens who may not be


                                        19
                                          Runaway and Homeless Youth Programs age eligibility requirements vary by
                                        subprogram. For example, the Basic Center Program serves youths up to age 18, while
                                        the Transitional Living Program serves youths from age 16 to age 22.




                                        Page 19                                            GAO-12-491 Federal Homelessness Programs
                                        able to receive services through many other homelessness programs due
                                        to their age. According to HHS, the programs that support youth
                                        homelessness are an attempt to address the needs of this specific
                                        population.

Figure 6: Overlap in Program Services to Homeless Children and Youth, Fiscal Year 2011




Fragmentation and                       Inefficiencies as a result of fragmentation and overlap can result at
Overlap May Result in                   multiple levels. Our body of work on fragmentation, overlap, and
Inefficiencies                          duplication has found that agencies often can realize a range of benefits,
                                        such as improved customer service and decreased administrative
                                        burdens and cost savings from addressing issues related to
                                        fragmentation, overlap, and duplication. However, these cost savings can
                                        be difficult to estimate in some cases because the portion of agency
                                        budgets devoted to certain programs or activities is not clear. In addition,
                                        the implementation costs that might be associated with consolidating
                                        programs, establishing collaboration mechanisms, or reducing activities,
                                        facilities, or personnel (among other variables) are difficult to estimate, or
                                        needed information on program performance or costs is not readily
                                        available.

                                        For this report, we identified some inefficiencies that result from
                                        fragmentation and overlap, such as increased administrative costs,
                                        additional work for providers, and a confusing service delivery system for
                                        those needing help. Federal agencies dedicate staff time and resources
                                        to separately manage overlapping programs, which may increase
                                        administrative costs. For example, while HUD has taken steps to manage
                                        most of its homelessness programs under the same administrative unit
                                        and limit the amount of supportive services it provides, HHS and VA


                                        Page 20                                   GAO-12-491 Federal Homelessness Programs
separately manage programs that provide similar services under different
units. 20

Further, fragmentation creates additional work for providers because
each agency has its own application and reporting requirements. During
our site visits, several local providers told us that managing multiple
applications and reporting requirements was burdensome, difficult, and
costly. The views of these service providers were consistent with
information about administrative burden, for example, that we gathered in
our previous work. 21 Some providers told us it was especially difficult to
manage some homelessness programs because they required funding
streams from various agencies, each with various reporting requirements.
Moreover, according to providers, persons experiencing homelessness
have difficulties navigating services that are fragmented across agencies.
As a result of this, many targeted programs provide case management
services because of the difficulty their clients have in identifying and
accessing various services available to them due to their multiple needs.

As previously mentioned, fragmentation and overlap in some programs
has been caused in part by their legislative creation as separate
programs under the jurisdiction of several agencies. Additionally,
programs developed incrementally over time to address the specific
needs of certain segments of the homeless population. Some advantages
exist to having multiple federal agencies or programs providing
homelessness services. Agency officials and service providers stated that
reasons why a fragmented service system existed were because the
needs of people experiencing homelessness varied greatly as did the
nature of the assistance they required. Similarly, agency staff and local
officials stated that overlapping services and the availability of multiple
programs with similar benefits helped ensure that those in need had
access to the resources they needed because one program might be
more accessible or better suited than another to meet the needs of a



20
  HUD manages its Homeless Assistance Grants under its Office of Special Needs
Assistance Programs and the HUD-VASH program under the Office of Public and Indian
Housing. HHS manages some homelessness programs under the Substance Abuse and
Mental Health Services Administration and others under the Administration for Children
and Families and Health Resources and Services Administration. VA manages some
programs under the Veterans Health Administration and others under the Veterans
Benefits Administration.
21
 See GAO-10-724.




Page 21                                     GAO-12-491 Federal Homelessness Programs
                         particular client. HHS staff told us overlapping programs helps ensure
                         access to services because persons experiencing homelessness are not
                         steered toward one point of entry and in contrast can access services
                         through several points of entry. Another provider stated that it was
                         important for persons experiencing homelessness to receive services
                         from both targeted and mainstream programs because the ultimate goal
                         was to house clients and have them live independently (that is, not be in
                         need of homeless services).

                         Ultimately, fragmentation across agencies can create an environment in
                         which persons experiencing homelessness are not served as efficiently
                         and effectively as possible, making coordination across government
                         essential. By addressing inefficiencies that result from fragmentation and
                         overlap, agencies will be able to better leverage government resources,
                         decrease administrative burdens, and assist persons experiencing
                         homelessness more effectively.



Programs Maintain
Performance
Information, but
Program Evaluations
Are Limited

Targeted Programs Have   The majority of targeted programs maintain performance data, which is
Performance Data, and    an important component for measuring program performance.
Efforts to Increase      Performance measurement is the ongoing monitoring and reporting of
                         program accomplishments, particularly progress toward pre-established
Information from         goals. 22 Performance measures may address the type or level of program
Mainstream Programs      activities conducted (process), the direct products and services a program
Have Begun               delivers (outputs), or the results of those products and services
                         (outcomes). According to the questionnaire responses, 25 of 26 targeted
                         programs reported that they maintained performance information such as
                         metrics and targets for the level of performance to be achieved, or report



                         22
                          See GAO, Performance Measurement and Evaluation: Definitions and Relationships,
                         GAO-11-646SP (Washington, D.C.: May 2011).




                         Page 22                                   GAO-12-491 Federal Homelessness Programs
the actual level of performance achieved (see app. III). 23 We asked
respondents to provide examples of the types and uses of performance
information collected. For instance, HHS’s Services in Supportive
Housing Grants program responded that it collects various data related to
mental health when an individual enters the program, at 6 months into the
program, and again when the individual is discharged, which enables the
program to measure performance and report outcomes. VA’s Domiciliary
Care for Homeless Veterans Program responded that it uses a monitoring
system that includes baseline information about veterans at admittance to
the program and their clinical outcomes at the time of discharge.

A majority (24 of 26) of the targeted programs reported that they collected
data on the number of homeless served, which is a measure of program
output. 24 Of the two remaining programs, one program—FEMA’s
Emergency Food and Shelter Program—collects information on services
such as meals provided or nights of lodging but not the number of
homeless served. The other program—the Acquired Property Sales for
Homeless Providers—did not collect data on the number of homeless
served because the program transfers government properties to nonprofit
organizations or other entities, which in turn provide services to persons
experiencing homelessness. The program tracks the number of
properties transferred.

While persons experiencing homelessness may access services through
targeted and mainstream programs, the mainstream programs do not
consistently collect data on services provided to this population. Less
than half of the mainstream programs, 30 of 62 programs or 48 percent,
indicated that they collected data on the numbers of homeless served



23
  VA’s Acquired Property Sales for Homeless Providers program reported that it did not
collect performance information, but collected other information such as number of
properties transferred.
24
  The data for numbers of homeless served are not comparable across programs
because program staff used different approaches and reporting periods to collect this
information. For example, some programs reported actual data according to annual
reports from grant recipients, while others estimated the expected number of participants
or reported frequency of services. Some programs collect data by fiscal year (October 1
through September 30) while other programs collect data by program year (July 1 through
June 30) or other reporting period. Additionally, some programs indicated concerns with
the reliability of the data for reasons such as the lack of independent verification of
grantee-generated data, the possibility that the data included multiple visits by a homeless
individual, or the process for collecting and submitting information.




Page 23                                        GAO-12-491 Federal Homelessness Programs
(see app. II for more detail). We asked respondents who indicated their
programs did not collect data on homelessness to explain why not. Some
responded that they did not collect data on persons experiencing
homelessness because their programs did not target this population
specifically. For instance, some stated that eligibility for the program was
based on income levels, which would not necessarily identify persons
experiencing homelessness. Other programs did not collect information
on homelessness because they had a different focus such as food
nutrition and collected information such as meals served instead. Also,
other programs indicated that they were not required by law to collect
information on an individual’s housing status. For example, HHS told us
by law, they cannot ask Temporary Assistance for Needy Families
grantees to report on certain information, including housing status.

However, respondents for 29 of 62 programs reported that their programs
had taken steps to increase the participation of persons experiencing
homelessness (see app. II for more detail). For instance, the Department
of Agriculture’s Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women,
Infants, and Children includes outreach to homeless shelters, social
service departments, or other agencies that serve persons experiencing
homelessness. HHS’s Child Support Enforcement Program has
collaborated with VA to increase participation of homeless veterans.
Finally, HHS’s Ryan White HIV/AIDS Program requires grantees to have
a public planning process to prioritize services. The homeless population
is included in the planning process.

As we have discussed in a previous report, collecting consistent,
comprehensive, and accurate data on persons experiencing
homelessness presents numerous challenges. 25 Such efforts could be
difficult and costly. But we also noted that several mainstream programs
already collect information on the housing status of individuals, and
opportunities exist for building on existing systems and procedures. If
collected, the more comprehensive data then could potentially be used to
identify areas for increased coordination between targeted and
mainstream programs and help increase the effectiveness of
homelessness programs. We made recommendations to federal agencies
and the Interagency Council that addressed consistent data collection




25
 See GAO-10-702.




Page 24                                GAO-12-491 Federal Homelessness Programs
                            and a related issue—developing a common vocabulary for homelessness
                            programs.

                            As GAO recommended, the Interagency Council has begun facilitating
                            discussions with federal agencies about the feasibility of creating a
                            common data standard in relation to housing status across relevant
                            federal programs. According to the Interagency Council’s strategic plan,
                            this effort will facilitate data exchanges and comparisons between
                            targeted and mainstream programs and improve identification of people
                            experiencing or at risk of homelessness. We discuss the Interagency
                            Council’s efforts later in this report.


Few Efficiency or           Limited information exists about program efficiency or effectiveness
Effectiveness Evaluations   because the majority of targeted programs have not conducted a program
of Targeted Programs        evaluation recently. According to our questionnaire results, 2 of 26
                            targeted programs reported having a program evaluation to assess
Exist                       efficiency or effectiveness within the last 5 years. We define “evaluation”
                            as an individual systematic study conducted periodically or on an ad hoc
                            basis to assess how well a program is working, typically relative to its
                            objectives. 26 Program evaluations also allow for identification of actions
                            that may improve results.

                            The two completed program evaluations looked at the following:

                            •     Labor’s Homeless Veterans Reintegration Program. 27 The study
                                  examined how well the program was accomplishing its mission and
                                  meeting its goals and provided data to inform future program
                                  decisions. The evaluation focused on four main issues: (1) how
                                  common measures impacted grantee performance; (2) how Labor-
                                  funded staff positions influence grantee processes, performance, and
                                  outcomes; 28 (3) how performance results differ across grantee types;
                                  and (4) the characteristics of successful and unsuccessful homeless



                            26
                                See GAO-11-646SP.
                            27
                              ICF International and Advocates for Human Potential, Homeless Veterans Reintegration
                            Program Effectiveness Study, a report prepared for the Department of Labor (Dec. 23,
                            2009).
                            28
                              This issue specifically refers to Labor-funded positions in state workforce one-stop
                            agencies designed to support disabled veteran and veteran employment, respectively.




                            Page 25                                       GAO-12-491 Federal Homelessness Programs
     veteran job seekers in relation to employment and retention
     outcomes. 29 Labor officials told us that as a result of the study, the
     agency clarified the role of Labor- funded staff who work with program
     grantees, strengthened the language in the program application to
     emphasize building relationships and partnerships with local agencies
     that employ Labor staff, and changed the language in the program
     guidance to emphasize to state workforce agencies the need to
     provide services to homeless veterans.

•    HHS’s Projects for Assistance in Transition from Homelessness. 30
     According to this evaluation, the legislation for this program requires
     that the expenditures of program grantees are evaluated at least once
     every 3 years to ensure they are consistent with legislative
     requirements and to recommend changes to program design or
     operations. The objectives for the evaluation were to determine if (1)
     services were appropriate, (2) services were well administered, and
     (3) outcome and process goals were achieved. The evaluation found
     that the program was meeting its objectives. HHS officials told us that
     evaluation findings are used to improve program performance,
     monitor, and identify trends among grant recipients and clients.

Additionally, agency staff from two other programs indicated that the
agency either had an evaluation under way or was planning an
evaluation. For instance, Education officials told us that a program
evaluation has been under way for the Education for Homeless Children
and Youths program, with the study expected to be completed in 2013.
HHS officials stated that they were in the early planning stages for an
evaluation of one of the components of the Runaway and Homeless
Youth Programs (Transitional Living Program). The officials estimated
that the evaluation would begin in fiscal year 2012 and include an
analysis of 5 years of program data to determine program performance
and success.



29
  According to the evaluation, common measures are a consistent approach to measuring
outcomes for employment programs. Labor introduced common measures to grantees in
2006 and began requiring grantees to report specific common measures during program
year 2006. Labor provides regular training and technical assistance to support the use of
common measures.
30
  MANILA Consulting Group, Inc., The 2005 National Evaluation of the Projects for
Assistance in Transition from Homelessness (PATH) Formula Grant Program, Final
Report, a report prepared for the Department of Health and Human Services (April 2009).




Page 26                                      GAO-12-491 Federal Homelessness Programs
Although program evaluations were limited, some agencies have
conducted general research on the issue of homelessness. For example,

•   HHS’s Office of the Assistant Secretary for Planning and Evaluation is
    responsible for policy research, evaluation, and economic analysis.
    According to HHS officials, the office oversees various research
    projects including homelessness. For instance, in fiscal year 2011 the
    office conducted two homelessness research projects. One project
    focused on Medicaid and permanent supportive housing services for
    individuals experiencing chronic homelessness. The other project
    focused on linking services and housing assistance for homeless
    families and those at risk of homelessness.

•   HUD’s Office of Policy, Development, and Research is responsible for
    maintaining information on housing needs and existing programs and
    also addresses the efficacy and cost of different homeless
    interventions such as transitional housing and emergency shelter.
    According to HUD, the office plays a policy advisory role in preparing
    HUD’s regulatory, budget, and legislative proposals and in activities
    such as assessing the economic effect of HUD’s regulations and
    setting performance goals and measures.

•   VA’s Northeast Performance Evaluation Center performs program
    evaluation on specialized mental health care provided through VA
    nationally. These specialized programs include services for homeless
    veterans, resident treatment, work therapy programs, post-traumatic
    stress disorder programs, and intensive case management
    programs. 31 Additionally, VA’s National Center on Homelessness
    Among Veterans has a primary goal to develop, promote, and
    enhance policy, clinical care research, and education to improve and
    integrate homeless services.

The Interagency Council maintains homelessness research and
evaluation information from across the federal government and



31
  The Northeast Performance Evaluation Center issues annual reports on three VA
homelessness programs. The programs include the Domiciliary Care for Homeless
Veterans Program, the Health Care for Homeless Veterans Program, and the Homeless
Veterans Grants and Per Diem Program. According to VA officials, these reports do not by
themselves represent a complete formal evaluation but are monitoring reports of program
operations. The reports provide the program office with feedback regarding the
specialized services offered.




Page 27                                     GAO-12-491 Federal Homelessness Programs
                          throughout the country on its website, but does not conduct research
                          itself. According to Interagency Council staff, the council does not have
                          the resources or the expertise to conduct research. Instead, the
                          Interagency Council’s strategic plan calls for collaborating and compiling
                          research to better understand best practices, the cost-effectiveness of
                          various interventions, metrics to measure outcomes, and the gaps in
                          homelessness research. According to the 2011 update to the strategic
                          plan, the council convened a federal interagency research group to share
                          research information and has compiled research on its website to make
                          information more accessible to state, local, and private sector partners.

                          While performance information can be helpful for monitoring whether
                          programs were achieving desired results, program evaluations allow for
                          comprehensive assessments. Thus, the limited evaluations of recent
                          years make it difficult to fully assess what is working and how
                          improvements can be made in programs addressing homelessness. It is
                          critical for the federal agencies that carry out these programs to identify
                          which programs are more effective in addressing the needs of persons
                          experiencing homelessness. Understanding program performance and
                          effectiveness is key to determining in which programs and interventions to
                          strategically invest limited federal funds.



While Federal
Coordination Efforts
Have Increased,
Strategic Plan Could
Be Improved

Interagency Council Has   The Interagency Council has taken several actions to enhance
Taken Steps to Enhance    coordination and promote initiatives across government agencies. As
Coordination              previously discussed, the HEARTH Act, which was enacted in May 2009,
                          directs the Interagency Council to coordinate the federal response to
                          homelessness and create national partnerships at every level of
                          government and with the private sector to reduce and end
                          homelessness. 32 The act contains statutory functions and requirements


                          32
                           42 U.S.C §§ 11311.




                          Page 28                               GAO-12-491 Federal Homelessness Programs
for the council, some of which relate to coordination, while others relate to
monitoring or reporting requirements. While the HEARTH Act also
requires the Interagency Council to take actions as necessary to reduce
duplication among programs, council staff told us they do not view
duplication among programs as the problem. Rather, they regard
fragmentation in delivery of services at the local level and a mismatch
between need and resources as the most significant issues. Therefore,
the council focuses its attention on coordination efforts among its member
agencies.

Based on our review of documents and discussions with council and
other agency staff, the Interagency Council’s actions in response to
HEARTH Act requirements include the following:

•    Convened federal partners and issued a federal strategy. Since May
     2009, the Interagency Council appointed a new executive director and
     convened 10 full council meetings where participants focused
     discussions around the development and implementation of a federal
     strategy. 33 In June 2010, the council issued the first federal strategic
     plan. 34 According to the HEARTH Act, the council must update the
     plan annually and the first update was issued in October 2011. 35
     Agencies have taken steps to adopt the strategy and incorporate it
     into their own efforts. HUD told us they incorporated the strategic
     plan’s goals, objectives, and strategies into its annual budget process;
     Agency Performance Goals; and its strategic plan and performance
     management process. VA officials told us they developed an
     operating plan to help implement and incorporate the plan into their
     own efforts. HHS and Council officials told us plans specific to
     homeless children and youth are under development and expected to
     be discussed in June and September 2012 at Council meetings.
     Some member agencies do not operate homelessness programs, or
     administer relatively few, and therefore would not be expected to
     develop plans to implement the federal strategic plan.


33
  The executive director was appointed in October 2009. The meetings took place in June
and October 2009; February, May, November, and December 2010; and March, July,
September, and December 2011.
34
  See U.S. Interagency Council on Homelessness, Opening Doors: Federal Strategic Plan
to Prevent and End Homelessness (Washington, D.C.: June 2010).
35
  See U.S. Interagency Council on Homelessness, Opening Doors: Federal Strategic Plan
to Prevent and End Homelessness Update 2011 (Washington, D.C.: October 2011).




Page 29                                     GAO-12-491 Federal Homelessness Programs
•     Distributed information about federal programs and resources and
      provided professional and technical assistance. In May 2011, the
      Interagency Council launched a redesign of its website and
      implemented a broader communication strategy that included
      updating newsletters and implementing a webinar series. The
      redesigned website includes information about programs, funding
      opportunities, and federal technical assistance available; abstracts of
      relevant research conducted in the past 10 years; and a series of fact
      sheets. Additionally, council staff provided professional and technical
      assistance through a series of webinars.

•     Coordinated at the state and local levels. The Interagency Council has
      developed several resources to help states and local communities
      implement strategic plans tailored to prevent and end homelessness
      or realign existing plans. To this end, the council issued guidance to
      assist local governments and communities. The Interagency Council
      also has encouraged the creation of state interagency councils on
      homelessness––a requirement of the HEARTH Act––by issuing a fact
      sheet and toolkit about how to start and develop these councils. An
      interactive state map with key facts and contacts for federal, state,
      and local officials is available on the Interagency Council website.
      Additionally, the council will have four regional coordinators
      throughout the country to provide professional and technical
      assistance to states and local communities beginning in May 2012.
      The regional coordinators will also participate in local, state, and
      regional meetings and workshops as necessary.

•     Took steps to develop a common vocabulary. The Interagency
      Council has taken initial steps to develop a common vocabulary for
      discussing homelessness and related terms, as recommended in our
      June 2010 report. 36 In January 2011, the council held a meeting with
      85 participants from stakeholder organizations and issued a report to
      Congress in June 2011 that summarized feedback received during the
      meeting. The report notes that a common vocabulary would allow
      federal agencies to better measure the scope and dimensions of
      homelessness, and may ease program implementation and
      coordination. Additionally, the council held three meetings in 2011 (in
      August, September, and October) to discuss implementation of a
      common vocabulary with key federal agencies. The Interagency



36
    GAO-10-702.




Page 30                                 GAO-12-491 Federal Homelessness Programs
    Council has stated implementation of a common vocabulary among its
    member agencies would require long-term efforts.

•   Developed joint federal agency initiatives. The Interagency Council
    organized a work group, known as the Council Policy Group, which
    provides a regular forum for coordinating policies, programs, data,
    and other initiatives among council members. HHS, HUD, VA, and the
    Interagency Council issued joint guidance and hosted a webinar on
    strategies to improve the accuracy of HUD’s point-in-time counts of
    people experiencing homelessness. HHS and VA also have been
    working with HUD and the Interagency Council to determine the
    feasibility of entering data from their respective programs into HUD’s
    data system (Homelessness Management Information Systems, or
    HMIS). According to VA officials, three VA programs input data into
    HMIS and officials told us they were in the early stages of determining
    the feasibility of entering data from additional programs into HMIS.
    Additionally, HHS officials told us they have been working to
    determine the feasibility of having all grantees in the Runaway and
    Homeless Youth Programs enter data into HMIS. As we reported in
    the past, a common vocabulary would allow agencies to collect
    consistent data that agencies could compile to better understand the
    nature of homelessness.

•   Developed performance goals and metrics related to coordination. In
    fiscal year 2011, the Interagency Council worked with the Office of
    Management and Budget to develop specific performance goals.
    However, more time is needed to assess the council’s progress in
    meeting its performance goals because the council put the goals in
    place in fiscal year 2012. One of the council’s two performance goals
    relates to coordination of federal resources; that is, coordinating the
    federal government’s response to homelessness to maximize the
    reach and impact of federal resources. Additionally, the council
    established two strategies and five metrics to help accomplish the
    coordination goal.

Several federal agency officials told us that the Interagency Council has
been effective in coordinating the federal response to homelessness
across agencies. For instance, HUD officials told us that the council
effectively disseminates information, lessons learned, and best practices.
HHS told us that the council has led efforts to obtain a better
understanding of homeless youth by convening a workgroup to determine
gaps in services and resources for this population.




Page 31                                GAO-12-491 Federal Homelessness Programs
                         While federal coordination efforts have increased or were under way,
                         local service providers with whom we spoke during our site visits said
                         greater coordination still was needed, providers suggested activities such
                         as promoting the movement toward permanent supportive housing,
                         providing more technical assistance, having a greater role in promoting
                         research around prevention methods, and increasing attention around
                         how changes in federal health care will impact local communities.
                         Interagency Council staff told us resource constraints have affected their
                         ability to coordinate the federal response to homelessness and fulfill
                         HEARTH Act requirements. They noted that improving coordination would
                         be a long-term effort.


Opportunities Exist to   The federal strategic plan to prevent and end homelessness has served
Further Improve the      as a useful and necessary first step in increasing agency coordination
National Strategy        and focusing attention on ending homelessness, but lacks some key
                         characteristics desirable in a national strategy. In previous work, we
                         identified six characteristics desirable for an effective national strategy.
                         (See table 3 in app. I for a detailed description of each characteristic.) 37
                         The federal strategic plan and its update fully address two characteristics
                         of an effective national strategy and partially address the remaining four
                         (see fig. 7).




                         37
                          See GAO-04-408T, GAO-07-100, GAO-08-672, and GAO-12-276T.




                         Page 32                                GAO-12-491 Federal Homelessness Programs
Figure 7: Extent to Which the Strategic Plan to Prevent and End Homelessness
Addresses Characteristics of an Effective National Strategy, as of May 2012




More specifically, the plan addresses the following characteristics:

•   Clear purpose, scope, and methodology. The strategy effectively
    addresses why it was produced, the scope of its coverage, and the
    process by which it was developed. For example, the HEARTH Act
    mandated that the Interagency Council develop the federal strategic
    plan and update it annually. The council worked with its 19 member
    agencies and state, local, and private sector partners to develop the
    strategy. The plan clearly articulates the methodology and states that
    the council held meetings with representatives of several
    organizations, mayors, and congressional staff, and also received
    input from leaders of state and regional interagency councils, and
    thousands of comments from the public, as part of the process of
    developing the plan.

•   Detailed discussion of problems and risks. The strategy provides a
    detailed discussion of problems and risks, including national data
    points, relating to homelessness in the United States. The Interagency
    Council primarily used data from HUD and Education to provide
    statistics and information about the number of persons experiencing
    homelessness. Additionally, in terms of risks, the plan includes a
    discussion about the consequences of homelessness. For example,
    the plan states that children in families experiencing homelessness



Page 33                                  GAO-12-491 Federal Homelessness Programs
    have high rates of acute and chronic health problems and a majority
    of them were exposed to violence.

The strategic plan partially addresses the following characteristics:

•   Desired goals, objectives, activities, and performance measures. The
    strategy effectively describes the desired overall goal, which is to
    prevent and end homelessness. It includes four key goals: (1) finish
    the job of ending chronic homelessness in 5 years; (2) prevent and
    end homelessness among veterans in 5 years; (3) prevent and end
    homelessness for families, youth, and children in 10 years; and (4) set
    a path to ending all types of homelessness. Additionally, the strategy
    includes 10 objectives and 52 strategies that align with the four goals.
    However, the strategy does not discuss or identify priorities and
    milestones that would help translate the goals and objectives into
    action. For example, it does not rank or prioritize which objectives or
    strategies need greater attention and focus. While the plan does align
    the objectives with federal agencies, it does not identify specific
    activities for each member agency to implement. Although the
    Interagency Council’s implementation plan for the strategic plan
    assigns the plan’s 10 objectives and 52 strategies to specific council
    staff, it does not set priorities, milestones, or differentiate which
    objectives and strategies require greater focus by specific member
    agencies. Additionally, while the strategy includes six performance
    measures that align well with the goals and objectives, the plan lacks
    specific activities and corresponding performance metrics that the
    council and member agencies could use to measure their progress in
    taking actions to implement the plan. 38 Furthermore, the strategy does
    not describe the overall framework for accountability and oversight,
    such as how federal agencies would be held accountable for
    implementing the plan and taking actions. Without additional
    performance metrics corresponding to actions taken to implement the
    plan, the Interagency Council, federal agencies, and Congress may


38
  Four performance metrics track annual changes in the number of (1) persons
experiencing homelessness, (2) individuals experiencing chronic homelessness, (3)
veterans experiencing homelessness, and (4) families with children experiencing
homelessness, and align well with the strategy’s four broad goals. The two additional
performance measures track increases in the number of permanent housing units and
increases in the employment and participation in mainstream programs by persons
experiencing homelessness. These two measures align well with 2 of the plan’s 10
objectives that directly correspond to providing affordable housing and improving access
to mainstream programs.




Page 34                                      GAO-12-491 Federal Homelessness Programs
    face difficultly in measuring incremental progress and ultimately
    determining whether the strategic plan was successful in terms of
    helping coordinate federal efforts.

•   Description of future costs and resources needed. The plan generally
    identifies numerous resource and investment needs, but lacks a
    discussion of the costs and resources needed to help achieve the 10
    objectives and put into action the 52 strategies. For instance, it does
    not discuss the costs, sources of investment, and types of resources
    needed. Further, an effective strategy would provide guidance to
    implementing parties about how to manage resources and
    investments accordingly—and begin to address difficult but critical
    issues of who pays, and how such efforts will be funded and
    sustained in the future. For instance, an effective strategy would help
    prioritize future costs and resources for research and program
    evaluations. Some budget figures are included in the October 2011
    update to the strategic plan. For example, the update includes
    information about enacted appropriations for targeted homelessness
    programs; however, it does not discuss in detail the costs and sources
    of investments needed in the future to help implement objectives such
    as providing affordable or permanent supportive housing or improving
    access to mainstream programs. The strategy states the development
    of the plan was guided by key principles, including cost-effectiveness,
    but contains relatively little discussion about the cost-effectiveness of
    specific federal programs. Program evaluations can help identify
    which programs are most effective in addressing the needs of persons
    experiencing homelessness and better target federal resources.
    Without a discussion of resources, investments, and priorities, the
    Interagency Council, federal agencies, and Congress could face
    difficulties in focusing scarce resources on the most cost-effective
    programs and initiatives.

•   Organizational roles, responsibilities, and coordination and integration
    with other entities. The strategy specifically states that the Interagency
    Council will provide federal leadership coordinating homelessness
    efforts and that the council’s staff should work in partnership with the
    19 member agencies. For each of the objectives, the plan identifies
    federal leadership, but does not include priorities for each agency and
    does not provide actions or activities that the agencies should take to
    help achieve the goals and objectives. Without discussion and
    delineation of which entities will implement the strategy, their roles
    and responsibilities, and mechanisms for coordinating efforts, the
    ability of agencies to implement the goals and objectives of the
    strategy will be diminished.


Page 35                                GAO-12-491 Federal Homelessness Programs
              Overall, the plan effectively describes goals and objectives. In
              discussions with council staff they told us in implementing the strategic
              plan the council is setting priorities, determining how to measure
              programs and results, and identifying mechanisms to hold federal and
              nonfederal partners accountable. However, these efforts need to be
              transparent to ensure accountability, inform Congress, and enhance
              federal efforts to prevent and end homelessness.


              The economic downturn and governmental resource constraints of recent
Conclusions   years have focused attention on the problem of homelessness and on
              ways to help ensure that federal programs efficiently and effectively use
              their resources to address that problem. But the wide range of federal
              homelessness programs has resulted in some degree of fragmentation and
              overlap of services provided and populations served. Specifically, we found
              that HUD, HHS, Labor, and VA have multiple programs that offer similar
              services to similar beneficiaries. The VA offers multiple programs to
              veterans that are eligible for receiving these services as a result of military
              service. While there may be advantages to fragmentation and overlap, they
              also entail inefficiencies that programs may not be able to afford in an era
              of resource constraints and ongoing coverage gaps. Our work has shown
              that fragmented and overlapping federal programs result in administrative
              burdens, additional work for local service providers, and a confusing
              service delivery system for beneficiaries. However, because our work
              identified specific areas of fragmentation and overlap among targeted
              homelessness programs, it also suggests that agencies can use this and
              other information to better target their efforts and coordinate to help reduce
              or eliminate inefficiencies that result from fragmentation and overlap.
              Additionally, limited performance evaluations make it difficult to fully assess
              what is working and how improvements can be made in programs
              addressing homelessness. While such evaluations can be resource-
              intensive, their benefits include helping agencies identify how to better
              structure or operate programs more efficiently, which in turn may help
              realize cost savings.

              Since 2009, one entity––the Interagency Council––has had an explicit
              mandate to coordinate the federal response to homelessness. The
              council has taken several actions to increase coordination across federal
              agencies, and its issuance of the first national strategic plan to prevent
              and end homelessness was a positive first step in improving coordination
              across agencies. The strategy is important because it broadly describes
              the federal approach to preventing and ending homelessness. The
              strategy sets goals and is an evolving effort, as the HEARTH Act requires


              Page 36                                 GAO-12-491 Federal Homelessness Programs
                      that it be updated annually. However, the plan does not specifically
                      address priorities, milestones, resources, and a clear delineation of roles
                      and responsibilities for federal agencies to help achieve results. Without a
                      detailed and transparent discussion of these elements, the plan’s
                      usefulness as a management tool for ensuring accountability and
                      achieving results is diminished. In addition, without descriptions of the
                      resources needed to achieve the goals, policymakers lack information
                      that would be helpful in allocating resources.


                      Based on our review, we are making two recommendations:
Recommendations for
Executive Action      The Interagency Council and the Office of Management and Budget––in
                      conjunction with the Secretaries of HHS, HUD, Labor, and VA––should
                      consider examining inefficiencies that may result from overlap and
                      fragmentation in their programs for persons experiencing homelessness.
                      As a starting point, the agencies could use the program information from
                      this report to further analyze the degree and effects of overlap and
                      fragmentation. The results of this assessment could be used to take
                      actions to reduce any identified inefficiencies and therefore better
                      leverage their resources. Actions may include streamlining services
                      offered within specific programs or by agencies, identifying programs that
                      could benefit from further research or evaluations, or consolidating
                      programs or services to reduce administrative costs.

                      To help prioritize, clarify, and refine efforts to improve coordination across
                      agencies, and improve the efficiency and effectiveness of federal
                      homelessness programs, the Interagency Council, in consultation with its
                      member agencies, should incorporate additional elements into updates to
                      the national strategic plan or other planning and implementation
                      documents to help set priorities, measure results, and ensure
                      accountability. Such elements should be transparent and may include
                      milestones, a clear delineation of roles and responsibilities as related to
                      the plan’s objectives, and corresponding performance metrics.


                      We provided a draft of this report to the Secretaries of Agriculture,
Agency Comments       Education, Health and Human Services, Homeland Security, Housing and
and Our Evaluation    Urban Development, Justice, Labor, and Veterans Affairs; the Acting
                      Administrator of the General Services Administration; the Commissioner
                      of the Social Security Administration; and the Executive Director of the
                      Interagency Council for comment. We provided an informational copy to
                      the Office of Management and Budget. We received comments from


                      Page 37                                 GAO-12-491 Federal Homelessness Programs
HHS, Homeland Security, HUD, Labor, VA, and the Interagency Council
that are reproduced in appendixes IV through IX, respectively. HHS,
Justice, VA, and the Interagency Council provided technical comments
that were incorporated, as appropriate. The Departments of Agriculture
and Education, GSA, and the Social Security Administration did not
provide any comments.

VA explicitly agreed with our first recommendation to work with the
Interagency Council and other federal agencies that provide services to
homeless veterans to identify opportunities to streamline programs and
services. HHS, HUD, and Labor did not explicitly agree or disagree with
this recommendation. They offered additional comments, which are
reproduced in appendixes IV, VI, and VII, respectively. HHS stated there
currently are not enough federal resources to meet the needs of the
homeless population and close the services gap, especially for those with
substance use and mental health disorders. While this report identified
federal funding for homelessness programs in fiscal year 2010, we did not
assess the availability of federal funding compared to the overall need.
The identification of overlap or fragmentation in this report does not mean
that funds to existing homelessness programs should be cut or eliminated
but raises questions about whether existing funds are being used
efficiently. HHS also commented about the importance of a “no wrong
door” approach that enables people to access needed services and
supports through multiple entry points. While this report suggests some
evidence of overlapping services, the report also acknowledges that
overlapping programs help ensure access to services because persons
experiencing homelessness are not steered toward one point of entry.
HUD disagreed with our assertion about the extent of fragmentation
across federal programs that serve the homeless. As a result of this
comment, we clarified in the report that evidence suggests fragmentation
and some overlap. As previously defined, fragmentation is more than one
agency involved in the same broad area of national interest (i.e.,
homelessness). This report identified multiple agencies managing several
similar homelessness programs, suggesting fragmentation. Additionally,
we acknowledge that federal agencies have taken steps to enhance
coordination, which we have previously stated is important to help
minimize inefficiencies. Labor offered additional comments about its
efforts in relation to employment of homeless veterans and stated it will
continue to work closely with the Interagency Council and other federal
partners.

The Interagency Council did not explicitly agree or disagree with the first
or second recommendations. However, it provided additional comments


Page 38                                GAO-12-491 Federal Homelessness Programs
about each. Regarding the first recommendation, the Council stated it is
not within the agency’s authority to streamline overlapping services.
However, our recommendation states the Council should work in
conjunction with key agencies and as a starting point use the program
information from this report to further analyze the degree and effects of
overlap and fragmentation. Streamlining services is one of several
potential actions that agencies could take after further analyzing the
degree and effects of overlap and fragmentation. As the entity mandated
to coordinate the federal response to homelessness, the Interagency
Council has an important role in facilitating the efforts of member
agencies to address potential inefficiencies related to fragmentation and
overlap. Regarding the second recommendation, the Council stated that
in implementing the federal strategic plan it has been setting priorities,
determining how to measure progress and results, and identifying
mechanisms to hold federal and nonfederal partners accountable.
However, the council was unable to provide us with documentation that
these activities were occurring. Therefore, we did not revise our second
recommendation because these additional implementation efforts must
also be transparent to help ensure accountability and measure the plan’s
progress. The Interagency Council made additional points, including

     •    commenting that our report did not reflect the strong commitment
          to research and to implement innovative practices across
          member agencies. Our report acknowledges that some agencies
          have conducted general research on the issue of homelessness,
          including specific research offices at HHS, HUD, and VA. The
          focus of our work was to identify whether programs had been
          evaluated and specifically whether program evaluations had
          occurred in the last 5 years.

     • questioning whether there was a specific understanding of “at
       risk” for homelessness in determining whether two programs met
       the criteria we used for targeted programs. In identifying
       programs, we defined a targeted program as one that (1) was in
       operation as of fiscal year 2011 and (2) provided assistance
       exclusively to those persons experiencing homelessness or at
       risk for homelessness. While we agree there may be subjectivity
       in interpreting “at risk” for homelessness, we shared our list of
       programs with agency officials and they agreed the programs
       met the criteria for a targeted program.

     •    asserting that property disposition programs would be better
          examined separately from targeted programs. The council further


Page 39                               GAO-12-491 Federal Homelessness Programs
          stated that including more programs in our review made it appear
          that there is more fragmentation and overlap than actually exists
          and they disagreed with our assertion about the extent of
          fragmentation. As previously stated, we clarified in the report that
          evidence suggests fragmentation and some overlap. This report
          states that 3 of 26 targeted programs provide federal surplus
          properties to eligible homelessness service providers and one
          program provides excess personal property to homeless
          veterans. In assessing the extent of fragmentation, overlap, and
          duplication of federal homelessness programs, we did not
          distinguish between different types of federal assistance and
          therefore included programs providing grants; direct assistance;
          or the sale, exchange, or donation of property or goods.


We are sending copies of this report to the Secretaries of Agriculture,
Education, Health and Human Services, Homeland Security, Housing and
Urban Development, Justice, Labor, and Veterans Affairs; the Acting
Administrator of the General Services Administration; the Commissioner
of the Social Security Administration; the Executive Director of the
Interagency Council; the Office of Management and Budget; and
appropriate congressional committees. In addition, the report is available
at no charge on the GAO website at http://www.gao.gov.

If you or your staffs have any questions regarding this report, please
contact me at (202) 512-8678 or cackleya@gao.gov. Contact points for
our Offices of Congressional Relations and Public Affairs may be found
on the last page of this report. GAO staff that made major contributions to
this report are listed in appendix X.




Alicia Puente Cackley
Director, Financial Markets and
  Community Investment




Page 40                                 GAO-12-491 Federal Homelessness Programs
Appendix I: Objectives, Scope, and
              Appendix I: Objectives, Scope, and
              Methodology



Methodology

              The objectives of our report were to determine (1) the number of and
              funding levels for federal homelessness programs and the extent to which
              fragmentation, overlap, and duplication exists; (2) whether the programs
              have been evaluated; and (3) actions of the U.S. Interagency Council on
              Homelessness (Interagency Council) and federal agencies to coordinate
              federal efforts and the extent to which the federal strategic plan to prevent
              and end homelessness is an effective strategy.

              Overall, we reviewed relevant laws and regulations, particularly the
              McKinney-Vento Homeless Assistance Act and the Homeless Emergency
              Assistance and Rapid Transition to Housing Act (HEARTH Act). We
              reviewed relevant literature and past reports on federal homelessness
              programs, including the Congressional Research Service’s report on
              targeted federal homelessness programs and recent legislation. 1 We
              interviewed federal agency officials and staff from the Interagency Council
              to gather information on federal homelessness programs and information
              about coordinating homelessness efforts. We reviewed documents
              related to the programs and the council’s coordination efforts and national
              strategic plan. We also conducted site visits to New York, New York; San
              Francisco, California; and Washington, D.C. We selected these locations
              based on the variety of targeted programs, size of the homeless
              population, and geography. In all three locations, we interviewed
              stakeholders, including local government officials; federal agency officials;
              and representatives of local service providers that offer services to
              homeless veterans, children and youth, women and families, and the
              general homeless population. While the number of site visits was too
              small to generalize information about the programs or assess the
              Interagency Council’s overall efforts to coordinate a federal response to
              homelessness, the observations and perspectives the various
              stakeholders expressed were sufficient to provide examples about the
              programs and suggest that the Interagency Council has begun to take
              steps to coordinate federal responses to homelessness.




              1
               Congressional Research Service, Homelessness: Targeted Federal Programs and
              Recent Legislation (Washington, D.C.: July 19, 2011).




              Page 41                                  GAO-12-491 Federal Homelessness Programs
                             Appendix I: Objectives, Scope, and
                             Methodology




Federal Homelessness
Programs and the Extent
of Fragmentation, Overlap,
and Duplication

Program Identification       To identify both targeted and mainstream federal homelessness
                             programs, we developed a comprehensive list of programs based on
                             legislative and agency information. First, through several searches, we
                             identified programs that potentially met our definitions of targeted and
                             mainstream. We defined a targeted program as one that (1) was in
                             operation as of fiscal year 2011 and (2) provided assistance exclusively to
                             those persons experiencing homelessness or at risk for homelessness.
                             We defined a mainstream program as one that (1) was in operation as of
                             fiscal year 2011, (2) included persons experiencing homelessness or at
                             risk for homelessness as part of the population served, (3) provided
                             services that benefit the homeless similar or complementary to those
                             offered by targeted programs, and that (4) agency officials identified to be
                             critical in meeting the needs of the homeless. We excluded programs that
                             did not directly help persons experiencing homelessness, such as those
                             that exclusively provided technical assistance, referrals, or administrative
                             functions. In developing our comprehensive list, we reviewed the Catalog
                             of Federal Domestic Assistance, the Interagency Council’s previous
                             reports and information, and previous GAO and Congressional Research
                             Service reports on homelessness, and searched the websites of the 19
                             member agencies of the Interagency Council. 2 Our initial review revealed
                             that 5 of the 19 member agencies did not operate any targeted or
                             mainstream programs. As a result, we excluded these five agencies from
                             our study. 3 In total, our initial search identified more than 150 potential
                             programs (48 targeted and 106 mainstream) that 14 federal agencies
                             administered.

                             Second, we excluded 4 of the 19 member agencies and their mainstream
                             programs because they were not deemed critical to meeting the needs of



                             2
                             See GAO-11-474R, GAO-10-724, and GAO-10-702.
                             3
                              The five member agencies that do not operate targeted or mainstream programs are the
                             Departments of Commerce and Transportation, the Office of Management and Budget,
                             the U.S. Postal Service, and the White House Office of Faith-Based and Community
                             Initiatives.




                             Page 42                                     GAO-12-491 Federal Homelessness Programs
                            Appendix I: Objectives, Scope, and
                            Methodology




                            the homeless. 4 Thus, the number of agencies in the scope of this study
                            decreased from 14 to 10. Next, we shared our comprehensive list of
                            programs with agency officials and asked officials to explain why
                            programs should remain on the list and if any should be added or deleted.
                            For example, some programs were removed from the list because they
                            were not in operation in fiscal year 2011 or were part of a larger program
                            already listed. During the initial meetings with agency officials, we asked
                            officials to clarify program names, descriptions, and services offered. To
                            obtain program-specific information, we sent a total of 105 (35 targeted,
                            70 mainstream) structured questionnaires to the 10 agencies. These
                            questionnaires are described in detail below. Our refined list included 100
                            unique programs of which three were jointly administered by two or more
                            agencies. 5 We made additional refinements to our list of targeted and
                            mainstream programs based on questionnaire responses. For instance,
                            we excluded additional programs or characterized them differently from
                            our initial list based on the program official’s input on whether the
                            programs met the criteria for targeted or mainstream. As a result, we
                            identified a total of 26 targeted and 62 mainstream programs.

Questionnaires on Federal   More specifically, we developed two different questionnaires, one for
Homelessness Programs       targeted programs and one for mainstream programs. The targeted
                            questionnaire was lengthier and included more in-depth questions about
                            program information and funding levels (for example, about program
                            goals and objectives, target populations, services offered, performance
                            information and evaluations, numbers of homeless served, and funding
                            information). The mainstream questionnaire included questions about
                            services offered, target populations, whether the programs collect data on
                            the number of persons experiencing homelessness or at risk for
                            homelessness, and whether steps had been taken to increase
                            participation of persons experiencing homelessness in mainstream


                            4
                             These four member agencies are the Departments of Defense, Energy, and Interior and
                            the Corporation for National and Community Service.
                            5
                             The Departments of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) and Veterans Affairs (VA)
                            administer HUD-VA Supportive Housing (HUD-VASH); HUD, the Department of Labor,
                            and VA administer the Veterans Homeless Prevention Demonstration Program, and the
                            General Services Administration and the Department of Health and Human Services
                            (HHS) and HUD administer Federal Surplus Real Property (Title V). For the HUD-VASH
                            program, two agencies received questionnaires. Additionally, for the demonstration
                            program and Federal Surplus Real Property (Title V) three agencies received
                            questionnaires. As a result, the number of questionnaires we sent is higher than the
                            number of programs.




                            Page 43                                    GAO-12-491 Federal Homelessness Programs
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Methodology




programs. To minimize errors arising from differences in how questions
might be interpreted and to reduce variability in responses, we conducted
pretests with two different agencies in September 2011. We obtained
feedback during the pretests and revised the questionnaires to improve
organization and clarity. We then used the revised instrument to conduct
a second round of pretests in October 2011 with the same two agencies.

We sent the questionnaires to the relevant agency contacts in November
2011 as attachments to an e-mail message, which provided instructions,
contact information for GAO staff, and the time frame for completing the
questionnaire. Most of the questions required close-ended responses,
such as checking boxes that best fit a description of the populations
served by each program. Some questions were open-ended, allowing the
officials to provide more in-depth details on program objectives, eligibility
criteria, and beneficiary eligibility. Respondents returned completed
questionnaires by e-mail, and we reviewed each program’s questionnaire
to ensure agency staff had provided complete and consistent responses.
From November 2011 through January 2012, we made telephone calls to
agency staff and sent follow-up e-mails, as necessary, to clarify
responses. We received completed questionnaires for 26 targeted and 62
mainstream programs.

For the 26 targeted programs, we also collected obligations and enacted
appropriations data, as available. We asked the agency staff to report on
obligations—defined as definite commitments that create a legal liability
of the government for the payment of goods and services ordered or
received. Each of the 26 targeted programs provided obligations data for
fiscal years 2008 through 2010, as available. A few programs were new
or had not obligated any funds in fiscal years 2008 through 2010;
therefore, they reported zero obligation dollars. We also collected enacted
appropriations data for fiscal years 2008 through 2011. In several cases,
programs were not able to provide enacted appropriations data because
agency staff told us the program did not have a specific appropriation and
funding for the program originated in a larger appropriation line item. As a
result of not having complete enacted appropriations data, we excluded
such data from this report. We did not collect funding-level information on
mainstream programs because the programs serve the general low-
income population, not solely persons experiencing homelessness, and
therefore funding for mainstream programs is not an appropriate estimate
of federal funding spent on persons experiencing homelessness.

We used an independent contractor to keypunch the questionnaire data
and provide us with a comprehensive data file. We verified a selected


Page 44                                GAO-12-491 Federal Homelessness Programs
                              Appendix I: Objectives, Scope, and
                              Methodology




                              sample of keypunched records with their corresponding questionnaires
                              and found that less than 0.5 percent of the data items had random
                              keypunch errors that were not corrected during data processing. We used
                              standard descriptive statistics to analyze responses. We performed data
                              checks to identify missing fields, outliers, and inappropriate answers, and
                              followed up with agency staff as necessary. To assess the reliability of
                              data provided in the questionnaires, we incorporated questions about the
                              reliability of the programs’ data and financial systems, conducted internal
                              reliability checks, and conducted follow-up as necessary. While we did
                              not verify all responses or have access to each agency’s data and
                              financial systems to fully assess the reliability of the data provided or the
                              systems themselves, on the basis of our questionnaire design and follow-
                              up procedures, we determined that the data used in this report were
                              sufficiently reliable for our purposes. Finally, GAO data analysts
                              independently verified all data analysis programs and calculations for
                              accuracy.

Determining the Extent of     To determine the extent of fragmentation, overlap, and duplication we
Fragmentation, Overlap, and   compared data from the 26 targeted programs to comprehensively look at
Duplication                   homelessness programs across the federal government and used the
                              following definitions:

                              •   Fragmentation occurs when more than one federal agency (or more
                                  than one organization within an agency) is involved in the same broad
                                  area of national interest.

                              •   Overlap occurs when multiple programs have similar goals and
                                  activities, and offer similar services to similar target populations.

                              •   Duplication occurs when two or more agencies or programs are
                                  engaging in the same activities or providing the same services to the
                                  same beneficiaries.

                              We previously had reported that the wide range of homelessness
                              programs that federal agencies offer resulted in a fragmented service
                              system. 6 To further determine the extent of fragmentation, we used the
                              questionnaire data to identify the number of agencies that deliver similar
                              or the same services. For example, five federal agencies each administer



                              6
                              GAO-11-318SP.




                              Page 45                                 GAO-12-491 Federal Homelessness Programs
                          Appendix I: Objectives, Scope, and
                          Methodology




                          programs that offer transitional housing assistance. To determine overlap,
                          we identified the number of programs with similar services (such as
                          housing or employment assistance) to similar populations (such as the
                          general homeless population, homeless veterans, or homeless children
                          and youth). To further determine overlap, we then used the services
                          offered to determine each program’s “primary services” and other eligible
                          services. We designated those services stated within a program’s goals
                          and objectives, as reported in the Catalog of Federal Domestic
                          Assistance or in the questionnaire, as primary services. In instances of
                          overlapping primary and other eligible services to similar target
                          populations, we reviewed the data with agency officials and asked
                          clarifying questions about each program’s primary and other eligible
                          services and obtained information about differences between programs.
                          However, the scope of this report did not allow us to gather enough
                          information to fully discuss the degree of overlap among homelessness
                          programs. To determine the extent of duplication, in instances when two
                          or more programs engaged in the same primary service to similar target
                          populations, we reviewed programmatic information, statutory authorities,
                          and held meetings with program staff to determine whether the programs
                          were providing the same services to the same beneficiaries.


Performance Information   We also used the targeted questionnaire discussed above to obtain
and Program Evaluations   information to answer our second objective about performance
                          information and program evaluations. For the 26 targeted programs, we
                          collected performance information and asked agency staff if a program
                          evaluation had been conducted in the past 5 years. For instance, the
                          questionnaire asked whether the programs had performance metrics,
                          targets for the level of performance to be achieved, reporting of actual
                          level of performance achieved, and what other data the agency collected
                          on program performance. Additionally, the questionnaire asked program
                          staff to describe the performance metrics, targets, reporting, or other data
                          and submit relevant documentation (that is, submit documents to us
                          describing the performance information and the program’s success in
                          meeting any performance metrics within the last 3 years). Further, the
                          questionnaire asked whether targeted programs had an efficiency or
                          effectiveness evaluation completed within the past 5 years and to submit
                          documents to us about any evaluation’s findings. We generally defined




                          Page 46                                GAO-12-491 Federal Homelessness Programs
                           Appendix I: Objectives, Scope, and
                           Methodology




                           “evaluation” as an individual systematic study conducted periodically or
                           on an ad hoc basis to assess how well a program was working. 7

                           For the two programs that reported having had an evaluation within the
                           past 5 years, we reviewed each report’s objectives, scope, key findings
                           and recommendations made. However, we did not independently assess
                           the quality of these reviews. Finally, we interviewed program staff to
                           obtain information on how the agency uses performance information and
                           program evaluation findings, as appropriate. We did not collect
                           performance information or program evaluations for mainstream
                           programs because these programs were designed to assist the general
                           low-income population and would not necessarily track or monitor
                           program performance or outcomes related to persons experiencing
                           homelessness.


Coordination Actions and   To review the actions of the Interagency Council and federal agencies to
the National Strategy      coordinate federal efforts, we analyzed the council’s coordination
                           responsibilities, obtained examples of coordination actions and activities
                           from the council and key federal agencies, and interviewed agency
                           officials. We reviewed the HEARTH Act and identified functions and
                           duties as they relate to coordinating the federal response to
                           homelessness. For instance, coordination refers to a joint activity bringing
                           together two or more agencies or entities. We identified actions such as
                           issuing and updating the federal strategic plan to end homelessness;
                           providing assistance to states, local governments, and nonprofit
                           organizations; and developing joint federal agency and other initiatives to
                           fulfill the goals of the Interagency Council, as coordination duties. We
                           interviewed Interagency Council staff and asked them to provide evidence
                           of actions taken to fulfill requirements of the HEARTH Act. We reviewed
                           relevant documents such as a report to Congress on developing a
                           common vocabulary, congressional budget justifications, performance
                           and accountability reports, guidance on creating effective state
                           interagency councils, and agendas for various meetings held by the
                           council. Additionally, our questionnaire to targeted programs asked
                           agency staff whether the agency or program offices coordinated or
                           collaborated with other federal agencies or programs to plan, facilitate, or



                           7
                            For more information on how we have defined performance information and program
                           evaluation, see GAO-11-646SP.




                           Page 47                                    GAO-12-491 Federal Homelessness Programs
                                              Appendix I: Objectives, Scope, and
                                              Methodology




                                              implement programs and examples of how this was done. Finally, during
                                              our site visits, we asked local service providers, local officials, and federal
                                              program staff to provide examples of coordination activities the
                                              Interagency Council and federal agencies have undertaken.

                                              To determine the extent to which the national strategic plan to prevent
                                              and end homelessness is an effective strategy, we analyzed the national
                                              strategy and gathered feedback on it from federal agencies. We obtained
                                              copies of the 2010 national strategy, the 2011 update to the national
                                              strategy, and an implementation plan that indicates which Interagency
                                              Council staff were responsible for specific items within the strategy. We
                                              assessed the strategy by benchmarking it against our prior work
                                              identifying the six desirable characteristics of an effective national
                                              strategy (see table 3). We have used this methodology in several past
                                              reports. 8

Table 3: Summary of Desirable Characteristics for a National Strategy

Desirable characteristic                                     Description
(1) Purpose, scope, and methodology                          Addresses why the strategy was produced, the scope of its coverage, and
                                                             the process by which it was developed.
(2) Problem definition and risk assessment                   Addresses the particular national problems and threats the strategy is
                                                             directed towards.
(3) Goals, subordinate objectives, activities, and           Addresses what the strategy is trying to achieve, steps to achieve those
performance measures                                         results, as well as the priorities, milestones, and performance measures to
                                                             gauge results.
(4) Resources, investments, and risk management              Addresses what the strategy will cost, the sources and types of resources
                                                             and investments needed, and where resources and investments should be
                                                             targeted based on balancing risk reductions with costs.
(5) Organizational roles, responsibilities, and              Addresses who will be implementing the strategy, what their roles will be
coordination                                                 compared to others, and mechanisms for them to coordinate their efforts.
(6) Integration and implementation                           Addresses how a national strategy relates to other strategies’ goals,
                                                             objectives, and activities, and to subordinate levels of government and their
                                                             plans to implement the strategy.
                                              Source: GAO.



                                              We assessed the federal strategic plan to prevent and end homelessness
                                              according to the six characteristics and provided a rating for each
                                              characteristic. Similar to our other reports that used these six
                                              characteristics, we gave ratings of “addresses,” “partially addresses,” or


                                              8
                                                  See GAO-04-408T, GAO-07-100, GAO-07-781, GAO-08-672, and GAO-12-276T.




                                              Page 48                                         GAO-12-491 Federal Homelessness Programs
Appendix I: Objectives, Scope, and
Methodology




“does not address.” According to our methodology, a strategy addresses
a characteristic when it explicitly cites all, or nearly all, elements of the
characteristic, and has sufficient specificity and detail. A strategy partially
addresses a characteristic when it explicitly cites one or a few of the
elements of a characteristic, and the documents have sufficient specificity
and detail. It should be noted that the partially addresses category
includes a range that varies from explicitly citing most, but not all, of the
elements to citing as few as one of the elements of a characteristic. A
strategy does not address a characteristic when it does not explicitly cite
or discuss any element of a characteristic, any references are either too
vague or general to be useful, or both.

We conducted this performance audit from June 2011 to May 2012 in
accordance with generally accepted government auditing standards.
Those standards require that we plan and perform the audit to obtain
sufficient, appropriate evidence to provide a reasonable basis for our
findings and conclusions based on our audit objectives. We believe that
the evidence obtained provides a reasonable basis for our findings and
conclusions based on our audit objectives.




Page 49                                 GAO-12-491 Federal Homelessness Programs
Appendix II: Mainstream Programs That
                                            Appendix II: Mainstream Programs That
                                            Persons Experiencing Homelessness Can
                                            Access


Persons Experiencing Homelessness Can
Access
                                            Persons experiencing homelessness may receive assistance through
                                            mainstream programs that are designed for low-income people generally.
                                            We defined a mainstream program as one that (1) was in operation as of
                                            fiscal year 2011, (2) included persons experiencing homelessness or at
                                            risk for homelessness as part of the population served, (3) provided
                                            services that benefit the homeless similar or complementary to those
                                            offered by targeted programs, and that (4) agency officials identified to be
                                            critical in meeting the needs of the homeless. This report does not include
                                            all programs that can serve persons experiencing or at risk for
                                            homelessness because some programs that can do so did not meet all
                                            the criteria in our definition. Table 4 summarizes 62 mainstream programs
                                            that met the above definition. In response to our questionnaire (see
                                            appendix I), mainstream programs reported whether they collected data
                                            on the number served and steps taken to increase participation of
                                            persons experiencing homelessness.

Table 4: Mainstream Programs That Persons Experiencing Homelessness Can Access

                                                                                          Collect data on       Steps taken to
Program name                     Description                                             homeless served    increase participation
Department of Agriculture (11)
Child and Adult Care Food        Provides snacks and meals to low-income children               X                     X
Program                          participating in after school, weekend, or holiday
                                 activities such as a tutoring program or after school
                                 childcare.
Emergency Food Assistance        Provides food to local agencies, usually food banks,
Program                          which in turn, distribute the food to soup kitchens
                                 and food pantries that directly serve the public.
Food Distribution Program on     Provides food to low-income households living on
Indian Reservations              Indian reservations, and to American Indian
                                 households.
Hunger Free Communities          Provides grants to assess community hunger
Grants                           problems, develop new resources to achieve
                                 hunger-free communities, or both.
Multi-Family Housing             Provides permanent affordable housing.
National School Lunch            Allows eligible children to receive free or reduced-           X
Program and School Breakfast     price meals during the school year.
Program
Senior Farmers’ Market           Provides low-income seniors with coupons that can
Nutrition Program                be exchanged for eligible foods at farmers’ markets,
                                 roadside stands, and community-supported
                                 agriculture programs.
Single-Family Housing            Provides permanent affordable housing.




                                            Page 50                                       GAO-12-491 Federal Homelessness Programs
                                              Appendix II: Mainstream Programs That
                                              Persons Experiencing Homelessness Can
                                              Access




                                                                                             Collect data on       Steps taken to
Program name                       Description                                              homeless served    increase participation
Special Supplemental Nutrition     Provides nutritious foods, healthy eating                                             X
Program for Women, Infants         information, and health-care referrals to help
and Children                       protect the health of women, infants, and children
                                   who are at nutritional risk.
Summer Food Service                Provides free breakfasts and lunches to children
Program                            during the summer months at participating schools,
                                   summer camps, churches, and community
                                   organizations that are designated by their states as
                                   sponsor programs. Some participating programs
                                   are connected with supervised activities in which
                                   children also participate.
Supplemental Nutrition             Provides food benefits issued via debit cards to
Assistance Program                 low-income households that can be used to
                                   purchase food from participating retail stores.
Department of Education (2)
Individuals with Disabilities      Provides services and improves results for infants,                                   X
Education Act Program, Parts       toddlers, children and youth with disabilities,
B and C                            including those with disabilities who are homeless.
Title I, Part A, Improving Basic   Provides financial assistance to local educational              X
Programs Operated by Local         agencies and schools with high numbers or high
Educational Agencies               percentages of children from low-income families to
                                   help ensure that all children meet challenging state
                                   academic standards.
Department of Health and Human Services (15)
Access to Recovery                 Provides discretionary funds to states, territories,            X
                                   and tribal organizations to establish new or expand
                                   existing voucher programs that promote client
                                   choice for substance abuse treatment and recovery
                                   support services.
Child Support Enforcement          Helps families by promoting family self-sufficiency                                   X
Program                            and child well-being.
Children’s Health Insurance        Provides health insurance to children in families
Program                            with very low income.
Community Mental Health            Provides and encourages the development of                      X                     X
Services Block Grant               creative and cost-effective community-based care
                                   for people with serious mental disorders.
Community Services Block           Funds a network of community action agencies that               X
Grant                              provides services and activities to reduce poverty,
                                   including services to address employment,
                                   education, better use of available income, housing
                                   assistance, nutrition, energy, emergency services,
                                   health, and substance abuse needs.
Family Violence Prevention         Assists state agencies, territories, and Indian tribes                                X
and Services Grant Program         in the provision of shelter to victims of family
                                   violence and their dependents, and for related
                                   services, such as emergency transportation and
                                   child care.




                                              Page 51                                        GAO-12-491 Federal Homelessness Programs
                                         Appendix II: Mainstream Programs That
                                         Persons Experiencing Homelessness Can
                                         Access




                                                                                       Collect data on       Steps taken to
Program name                  Description                                             homeless served    increase participation
Head Start                    Provides school readiness by enhancing the social              X                     X
                              and cognitive development of children through the
                              provision of educational, health, nutritional, social
                              and other services to enrolled children and families.
Health Center Program         Provides comprehensive, primary health care                    X                     X
                              services to medically underserved communities and
                              vulnerable populations. Health centers are
                              community-based organizations that serve
                              populations with limited access to health care.
Healthy Start                 Increases access and utilization of health-care                X
                              services for low- income women during pregnancy
                              and in the months following delivery in areas with
                              high infant mortality and shortages of health-care
                              providers.
John H. Chafee Foster Care    Assists current and former foster care youths
Independence Program          achieve self-sufficiency. Provides short-term
                              housing, education, employment and job training,
                              and case management.
Medicaid                      Provides health care coverage to low-income                                          X
                              individuals and families.
Ryan White HIV/AIDS           Provides HIV-related services for those who do not             X                     X
Program                       have sufficient health-care coverage or financial
                              resources for coping with HIV.
Social Services Block Grant   Assists states in delivering social services directed
                              toward the needs of children and adults.
Substance Abuse Prevention    Provides substance abuse prevention, early                     X
and Treatment Block Grant     intervention, treatment, and recovery support
                              services for individuals, families, and communities
                              impacted by substance abuse and substance use
                              disorders.
Temporary Assistance for      Provides temporary cash assistance and services                                      X
Needy Families                for low-income families with children.
Department of Housing and Urban Development (8)
Community Development         Addresses a wide range of unique community                     X
Block Grant                   development needs.
HOME Investment               Expands the supply of affordable housing and
Partnerships Program          increases the capacity of state and local
                              governments and nonprofit organizations in
                              developing such housing.
Housing Choice Voucher        Assists very low-income families, the elderly, and             X                     X
Program (Section 8)           persons with disabilities to afford decent, safe, and
                              sanitary housing in the private market.
Housing Counseling Program    Provides funding to support free or low-cost advice            X                     X
                              related to buying a home, renting, default,
                              foreclosure avoidance, credit issues and reverse
                              mortgages.




                                         Page 52                                       GAO-12-491 Federal Homelessness Programs
                                         Appendix II: Mainstream Programs That
                                         Persons Experiencing Homelessness Can
                                         Access




                                                                                        Collect data on       Steps taken to
Program name                   Description                                             homeless served    increase participation
Housing Opportunities for      Funds may be used for a wide range of housing,                 X
Persons with AIDS              social services, program planning, and
                               development costs.
Native American Housing        Provides loan guarantees to Indian tribes for private
Assistance and Self            market loans to develop affordable housing. The
Determination Act              act provides a formula-based grant program as
                               well.
Public Housing Program         Provides decent and safe rental housing for eligible           X                     X
                               low-income families, the elderly, and persons with
                               disabilities.
Section 811 Supportive         Allows persons with disabilities to live as
Housing for Persons with       independently as possible in the community by
Disabilities                   increasing the supply of rental housing with the
                               availability of supportive services.
Department of Justice (5)
Drug Court Discretionary       Funds the development, implementation, and
Grant Program                  enhancement of drug treatment courts in state and
                               local jurisdictions. Services may include substance
                               abuse and mental health treatment, employment,
                               job training, and education.
Justice and Mental Health      Provides grants and assistance to states and local
Collaboration Program          government agencies to tackle the problem of
                               serious mental illness among the nation’s
                               nonviolent offenders.
Promoting Child and Youth      Provides resources to the Youth Network Council                                      X
Safety: Chicago Safe Place     with the purpose of promoting youth safety by
Program                        preventing victimization of Chicago’s
                               unaccompanied and homeless youth through the
                               provision of a network of resources.
Second Chance Act Program      Provides funding to assist the re-entering
                               population of adults and adolescents from state and
                               local correctional facilities.
Services to Advocate for and   Provides mental health and case management                     X
Respond to Youth               services to youth victims of domestic violence,
                               dating violence, sexual assault, and stalking.
Department of Labor (12)
Disabled Veterans Outreach     Provides intensive services to meet the                        X
Program                        employment needs of disabled veterans and other
                               eligible veterans, with the maximum emphasis
                               directed toward serving those who are economically
                               or educationally disadvantaged, including homeless
                               veterans, and veterans with barriers to employment.
Indian and Native American     Provides funds for employment and training                     X
Employment and Training        services provided by organizations serving Indians
Program                        and Native Americans.
Job Corps                      Provides career technical training and educational             X                     X
                               services for low-income students, ages 16-24.




                                         Page 53                                        GAO-12-491 Federal Homelessness Programs
                                           Appendix II: Mainstream Programs That
                                           Persons Experiencing Homelessness Can
                                           Access




                                                                                         Collect data on       Steps taken to
Program name                    Description                                             homeless served    increase participation
Local Veterans Employment       Conducts outreach to employers and engages in                  X
Representative                  advocacy efforts with hiring executives to increase
                                employment opportunities for veterans, encourage
                                the hiring of disabled veterans, and generally assist
                                veterans to gain and retain employment.
National Farmworker Jobs        Provides funding to community-based organizations              X                     X
Program                         and public agencies to offer job training and
                                employment assistance for migrant and seasonal
                                farmworkers.
Reintegration of Ex-Offenders   Provides employment and training services for adult            X                     X
                                prisoners 18 and older returning home and juvenile
                                offenders and at-risk youth ages 14-24.
Senior Community Service        Helps unemployed, low-income older individuals                 X
Employment Program              gain the skills they need to find and sustain
                                employment in the workforce while they participate
                                in useful community service activities.
Veterans’ Workforce             Provides services to assist in reintegrating eligible          X
Investment Program              veterans into meaningful employment within the
                                labor force and to stimulate the development of
                                effective service delivery systems that will address
                                the complex problems facing eligible veterans.
Wagner-Peyser Employment        Provides employment-related labor exchange                                           X
Service                         services, including but not limited to, job search
                                assistance, job referral and placement assistance
                                for job seekers, re-employment services to
                                unemployment insurance claimants, and
                                recruitment.
Workforce Investment Act        Provides workforce investment services to adults to            X
Adult Program                   increase their employment, retention in
                                employment, and earnings, and also support their
                                occupational skill attainment and career
                                advancement.
Workforce Investment Act        Provides workforce investment services to low-                 X                     X
Youth Program                   income youth who meet specific eligibility
                                categories.
Youth Build                     Serves low-income youth between the ages of 16                 X
                                and 24. Strong emphasis is placed on leadership
                                development and community service.
Department of Veterans Affairs (5)
Compensated Work Therapy        Provides employment and training and case-                     X                     X
Program                         management services to veterans whose vocational
                                lives have been disrupted by mental illness,
                                substance abuse, or homelessness.




                                           Page 54                                       GAO-12-491 Federal Homelessness Programs
                                          Appendix II: Mainstream Programs That
                                          Persons Experiencing Homelessness Can
                                          Access




                                                                                                          Collect data on       Steps taken to
Program name                    Description                                                              homeless served    increase participation
Disability Compensation and     Provides disability compensation benefits to                                        X                 X
Non-Service Connected           veterans because of injuries or diseases that
Pension                         happened while on active duty, or were made
                                worse by active military service. Pension is an
                                income-based monthly benefit paid to veterans with
                                honorable wartime service who are 65 or older or
                                who are permanently and totally disabled due to
                                disability that is not related to military service.
Healthcare for Reentry          Addresses the community reentry needs of                                            X                 X
Veterans                        incarcerated veterans. The program goals are to
                                prevent homelessness, reduce the impact of
                                medical, psychiatric, and substance abuse
                                problems upon community readjustment, and
                                decrease the likelihood of reincarceration for those
                                leaving prison.
Vet Center                      Provides counseling, outreach, and referral                                         X                 X
                                services to eligible combat veterans and active duty
                                servicemembers to help them make a satisfying
                                post-war readjustment to civilian life. Family
                                members of eligible veterans are also eligible for
                                Vet Center services.
Veterans Justice Outreach       Provides outreach services to veterans in contact                                   X                 X
                                with the justice system through encounters with
                                police, jails, and courts. The goal of the program is
                                to provide timely access to VA services for eligible
                                justice-involved veterans to prevent homelessness
                                and avoid the unnecessary criminalization of mental
                                health and other problematic clinical issues among
                                veterans.
General Services Administration (1)
Federal Surplus Personal        Enables certain nonfederal organizations to obtain                                                    X
Property Donation Program       personal property that the federal government no
                                longer needs and can benefit the community.
                                Surplus property can include all types and
                                categories such as food, clothing, beds, medical
                                supplies, furniture, and a host of other items.
Social Security Administration (3)
Social Security Disability      Provides benefits based on a worker’s prior                                                           X
Insurance                       earnings. Dependents, such as spouses and
                                children, of disabled workers also may receive
                                benefits.
Supplemental Security Income    Provides basic income support to needy individuals                                                    X
                                who are blind, disabled, or who are aged 65 or
                                older and have limited or no other income.
Social Security Retirement      Provides benefits based on a worker’s prior
                                earnings and retirement age.
                                          Source: GAO analysis of agency information and questionnaire responses.




                                          Page 55                                                          GAO-12-491 Federal Homelessness Programs
Appendix III: Performance Information for 26
                                           Appendix III: Performance Information for 26
                                           Targeted Programs



Targeted Programs

                                           In their responses to our questionnaire (see app. I), almost all of the
                                           targeted programs (25 of 26) replied they maintained performance
                                           information such as metrics and targets for the level of performance to be
                                           achieved, or reported the actual level of performance achieved for their
                                           respective programs (see table 5). The specific type of performance
                                           measures they maintained varied. More than half of the programs
                                           maintained performance metrics information (15 of 26), and almost half
                                           maintained targets for the level of performance (12 of 26). And almost all
                                           indicated that they reported information on actual performance (23 of 26).

Table 5: Performance Information Collected, by Program

                                                                                 Targets for the      Reporting of
                                                              Performance           level of             actual
Agency        Program                                           metrics           performance         performance     Other data
VA            Domiciliary Care for Homeless Veterans                X                     X                X               X
              Program
VA            Homeless Providers Grants and Per Diem                X                     X                X               X
              Program
VA            Health Care for Homeless Veterans                     X                                                      X
              Program
VA            Homeless Veterans Dental Program                                                             X               X
VA            National Call Center for Homeless Veterans                                                   X               X
VA            Stand Downs                                                                                  X               X
VA            Acquired Property Sales for Homeless
                        a
              Providers
VA            Excess Property for Homeless Veterans                                                                        X
              Initiative
VA            Regional Office Homeless Veterans                                                            X               X
              Outreach Activities
VA            Homeless Veteran Supported Employment                                                        X               X
              Program
VA            Preventing Veteran Homelessness through               X                     X                X               X
              Mortgage Foreclosure Assistance
HHS           Projects for Assistance in Transition from                                                   X
              Homelessness
HHS           Runaway and Homeless Youth Programs                   X                     X                X
HHS           Health Care for the Homeless                          X                                      X               X
HHS           Grants for the Benefit of Homeless                    X                     X                X               X
              Individuals
HHS           Services in Supportive Housing Grants                 X                     X                X               X
HUD           Homeless Assistance Grants                            X                     X                X               X




                                           Page 56                                        GAO-12-491 Federal Homelessness Programs
                                          Appendix III: Performance Information for 26
                                          Targeted Programs




                                                                                             Targets for the     Reporting of
                                                                    Performance                 level of            actual
Agency        Program                                                 metrics                 performance        performance     Other data
HUD           Homelessness Prevention and Rapid Re-                          X                     X                  X               X
              Housing Program
HUD           Base Realignment and Closure Program                           X                     X                  X               X
Education     Education for Homeless Children and                            X                     X                  X               X
              Youths
FEMA          Emergency Food and Shelter Program                                                                      X               X
Justice       Transitional Housing Assistance for Victims                                                             X               X
              of Domestic Violence, Stalking, or Sexual
              Assault
Labor         Homeless Veterans Reintegration Program                        X                     X                  X               X
Multiagency   HUD-VA Supportive Housing (HUD-VASH)                           X                     X                  X               X
Multiagency   Veterans Homeless Prevention                                                                            X               X
              Demonstration Program
Multiagency   Federal Surplus Real Property (Title V)                        X                                        X               X
Total                                                                       15                     12                 23              23
                                          Source: GAO analysis of questionnaire responses.
                                          a
                                           VA’s Acquired Property Sales for Homeless Providers program reported that it did not collect
                                          performance information.




                                          Page 57                                                    GAO-12-491 Federal Homelessness Programs
Appendix IV: Comments from the
             Appendix IV: Comments from the Department
             of Health and Human Services



Department of Health and Human Services




             Page 58                                     GAO-12-491 Federal Homelessness Programs
Appendix IV: Comments from the Department
of Health and Human Services




Page 59                                     GAO-12-491 Federal Homelessness Programs
Appendix IV: Comments from the Department
of Health and Human Services




Page 60                                     GAO-12-491 Federal Homelessness Programs
Appendix IV: Comments from the Department
of Health and Human Services




Page 61                                     GAO-12-491 Federal Homelessness Programs
Appendix V: Comments from the Department
             Appendix V: Comments from the Department
             of Homeland Security



of Homeland Security




             Page 62                                    GAO-12-491 Federal Homelessness Programs
Appendix VI: Comments from the
             Appendix VI: Comments from the Department
             of Housing and Urban Development



Department of Housing and Urban
Development




             Page 63                                     GAO-12-491 Federal Homelessness Programs
Appendix VI: Comments from the Department
of Housing and Urban Development




Page 64                                     GAO-12-491 Federal Homelessness Programs
Appendix VI: Comments from the Department
of Housing and Urban Development




Page 65                                     GAO-12-491 Federal Homelessness Programs
Appendix VII: Comments from the
             Appendix VII: Comments from the Department
             of Labor



Department of Labor




             Page 66                                      GAO-12-491 Federal Homelessness Programs
Appendix VII: Comments from the Department
of Labor




Page 67                                      GAO-12-491 Federal Homelessness Programs
Appendix VIII: Comments from the
             Appendix VIII: Comments from the Department
             of Veterans Affairs



Department of Veterans Affairs




             Page 68                                       GAO-12-491 Federal Homelessness Programs
Appendix VIII: Comments from the Department
of Veterans Affairs




Page 69                                       GAO-12-491 Federal Homelessness Programs
Appendix IX: Comments from the United
              Appendix IX: Comments from the United
              States Interagency Council on Homelessness



States Interagency Council on Homelessness




              Page 70                                      GAO-12-491 Federal Homelessness Programs
Appendix IX: Comments from the United
States Interagency Council on Homelessness




Page 71                                      GAO-12-491 Federal Homelessness Programs
Appendix IX: Comments from the United
States Interagency Council on Homelessness




Page 72                                      GAO-12-491 Federal Homelessness Programs
Appendix X: GAO Contact and Staff
                  Appendix X: GAO Contact and Staff
                  Acknowledgments



Acknowledgments

                  Alicia Puente Cackley, (202) 512-8678 or cackleya@gao.gov.
GAO Contact
                  In addition to the contact named above, Paul Schmidt (Assistant
Staff             Director), Elizabeth Curda, Beth Faraguna, Janet Fong, Jill Lacey, Marc
Acknowledgments   Molino, John McGrail, Barbara Roesmann, Christine San, and Brian
                  Schwartz made key contributions to this report.




(250577)
                  Page 73                              GAO-12-491 Federal Homelessness Programs
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