^^_._....._._.. *IllI,, . I!too * HOMELESSNESS Changes in the Interagency Council on the Homeless Make It More Effective 141766 ~- (;Ao,:‘lt( ‘I’ll-!)()-I 72 United States General Accounting Office Washington, D.C. 20548 Resources, Community, and Economic Development Division B-240086 July 11,lQQO The Honorable Cardiss Collins Chairwoman, Government Activities and Transportation Subcommittee Committee on Government Operations Houseof Representatives The Honorable Tom Lantos Chairman, Employment and Housing Subcommittee Committee on Government Operations Houseof Representatives This report respondsto your April 12, 1989, request that we determine what steps the Interagency Council on the Homelesshas taken to improve its implementation of the Stewart B. McKinney HomelessAssis- tance Act. In March 1989, we testified before you that the Council had been slow to react to what the Congresssaid was an immediate and unprecedented homelessnesscrisis. We noted that the Council’s attempts to meet the requirements of the act had been largely inadequate and ineffective.’ This report discusses(1) the actions the Council has taken since our tes- timony to meet its McKinney Act responsibilities and (2) opinions of the Council’s actions expressedby state officials and local assistance providers. The current Council has made significant and much neededchangesin Results in Brief responseto the March 1989 hearings. The leadership of the Council under its current Chairman, the Secretary of the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), has improved substantially. For example, the Chairman’s loan of 10 HUD employeesto serve as the Council’s full-time regional coordinators on a nonreimbursable basis has strengthened the Council’s field coordination efforts and has improved servicesto the homelessby providing more technical assistanceto state and local assistanceproviders. Approximately two-thirds of the state officials and local assistance providers we surveyed said that the current Council’s activities to ‘Status of the Activities of the Interagency Council on the Homeless (GAO/T-RCED-89-16, Mar. 16, 1989). Page 1 GAO/RCED-9@172 Interagency Council on the Homeless B24008l!l improve and coordinate federal efforts to assist the homelesswere somewhat to very effective. In addition, according to these officials and providers, the Council should be reauthorized to continue coordinating these efforts. Finally, in our March 1989 testimony we criticized the Council’s 1988 annual report becauseit contained only general policy recommendations and did not discussor recommendthe level of federal assistanceneces- sary to alleviate homelessness.In contrast, the Council’s 1989 annual report will be useful to the Congressbecauseit focusesprimarily on the federal responseto homelessness-as required by the McKinney Act. The Council recommendedfull funding of the McKinney Act programs. It also recommendedthat the Congressreauthorize the McKinney Act programs through fiscal year 1991. ‘The Stewart B. McKinney HomelessAssistanceAct (P.L. 100-77,July Background 1987) and its subsequentamendments(P.L. 100-628,Nov. 1988) repre- sented the first efforts by the Congressto establish a comprehensiveset of direct-assistanceprograms for homelessindividuals. The act author- ized 20 assistanceprograms for the homeless,although two of these pro- grams were later removed from the McKinney Act’s authorization and reauthorized under the Hunger Prevention Act of 1988. Theseprograms, such as emergencyassistanceand transitional housing programs, help state and local assistanceproviders meet the urgent needsof the home- less. The McKinney Act programs are administered by several agencies, including HUD; the Departments of Health and Human Services(HHS), Labor, Education, and Veterans Affairs; the Federal Emergency Man- agementAgency; and the General ServicesAdministration. Title II of the McKinney Act created the Interagency Council on the Homelessas an independent establishment within the executive branch, The McKinney Act charged the Council with reviewing all federal activi- ties and programs to assist the homelessand with reducing duplication of effort among federal agencies.In doing so, the Council is further charged with monitoring, evaluating, and recommendingimprovements in programs and activities that assist the homeless;providing profes- sional and technical assistanceto public and private organizations serving the homeless;collecting and disseminating information; pub- lishing a bimonthly bulletin summarizing available federal resources; and reporting annually to the President and the Congresson activities dealing with the homeless.The Council is scheduledto ceaseoperations on October 1, 1990. Page 2 GAO/RCED-90-172 Interagency Council on the Homeless The Council is composedof the heads(or their representatives) of 15 federal agencies;headquarters staff in Washington,D.C.; 10 full-time regional coordinators provided by HUD; and part-time field coordinators provided by the other member agencies.(App. I provides information on the Council’s budget data for fiscal years 1989 through 1991.) The activ- ities necessaryto carry out policies and priorities established by the Council are further developedby a policy group, assistedby Council staff. (App. II contains additional information on the organizational structure of the Council.) In March 1989, we testified that the Council’s efforts to meet its statu- Council Operations tory responsibilities under the McKinney Act were inadequate and inef- Improve fective. We identified several matters that hindered the Council’s effectiveness,including inadequate policy guidance or direction from the Chairman and the uncertainty among working group membersabout the Council’s role. Most importantly, we found that the Council did not provide critical information on McKinney Act programs to state agencies and local assistanceproviders, thus possibly precluding providers from receiving federal assistance.Sinceour March 1989 testimony, the Council has made significant changesto improve its implementation of the McKinney Act. Council’s Leadership Has In our March 1989 testimony, we testified that the former Council Improved Chairman did not provide adequatepolicy guidance and management direction regarding federal assistanceefforts for the homeless. According to the current Executive Director, the current Chairman pro- vides regular policy guidance and managementdirection to the Council at the Council’s quarterly meetings and through frequent meetings with his Council representative and the Executive Director. In addition, both the Chairman and Vice Chairman, the Secretary of HHS, frequently dis- cusspolicy and other matters between Council meetings with the Execu- tive Director and other Council representatives. In addition to chairing each Council meeting, the Chairman attends various Council functions, such as regional conferences,state contact meetings, and training workshops. Also, both the Chairman and Vice Chairman have visited shelters for the homeless,Thesevisits resulted in a memorandum of understanding between HUD and HHS pledging that both Departments would develop and implement joint initiatives for assisting homelessfamilies with children, welfare families in public or assistedhousing, and homelessindividuals with serious mental illnesses. Page 3 GAO/RCED-90-172 Interagency Council on the Homeless R-240086 The Council Is Taking an In our March 1989 testimony, we concludedthat more than a year and a Active Role in Fulfilling Its half after the passageof the McKinney Act the previous Council had not developeddetailed policies and guidance to direct its activities. In April McKinney Act 1989, the new Council staff developed a paper that explains the role of Responsibilities the Council, provides policy direction, and discussessomeof its activi- ties. The Council staff also developed a fact sheet on the Council in December1989. The fact sheet concludesthat the current Council is taking an active role in meeting its congressionalmandate by (1) moni- toring and evaluating activities to assist the homelessand recom- mending improvements, (2) providing technical assistanceto state and local groups, and (3) collecting and disseminating information on pro- grams assisting the homeless. Council AssessesProgramsand To effectively fulfill its monitoring and evaluation mandate, the Council Activities Through Site Visits to determined that its staff should conduct an overall assessmentof how State and Local Programs well the McKinney Act programs were working, supplementing the pro- gram-specific assessmentsconducted by member agencies.To avoid duplicating fieldwork already completed by others, the Council staff met with all the Council’s member agenciesand major advocacy organiza- tions for assistancein identifying potential sites for Council staff to visit. Information from this meeting resulted in the staff’s focusing the site visits on how public and private agenciesaddressthe issue of home- lessnessand on how well the McKinney Act programs work for state and local assistanceproviders. During the summer of 1989, Council staff visited programs in Alabama, Arkansas, California, Colorado, Indiana, Iowa, Michigan, Mississippi, Missouri, New Jersey, New York, Oklahoma, Utah, and Washington. The Council provided a summary of the information obtained during these visits to membersof its policy group on October 2, 1989. Policy group memberswere requestedto assessthe problems identified during the visits to the McKinney Act programs, state their position on each issue, and identify any appropriate agency action(s). Council agen- cies either have made or are considering making administrative changes and/or legislative recommendations,such as revising the application processfor the Supportive Housing Demonstration Program and using Emergency Shelter Grant Program funds to build new facilities, that are responsiveto the problems identified. A final report on the site visits, which included agency responses,was distributed to the policy group on March 6, 1990. Page 4 GAO/RCED-90-172 Interagency Council on the Homeless 5240086 Technical Assistance Is Provided Council member agenciesprovide technical assistancein a variety of in a Variety of Ways ways. For instance, HUD conducted briefing sessionson its McKinney Act programs at each of its regional offices for interested assistanceprov- iders. Member agencieshave also designatedprogram staff in headquar- ters who are available to assist these groups. These individual agency efforts are supplementedthrough the activities of the Council’s full-time regional coordinators and part-time field coordinators. The McKinney Act amendmentsrequire that the Council establish a schedulefor biennial regional workshops to be held in each of the 10 federal regions to help organizations serving the homeless.As of May 31,1990, the current Council had held four conferences,each averaging about 490 participants, in Atlanta, Georgia;Hartford, Connecticut; Fort Worth, Texas; and Chicago,Illinois. Conferenceparticipants consistedof assistanceproviders, representatives from the Council and other federal agencies,elected and appointed state and local officials, and homeless people. We attended the -Atlanta, Hartford, and Fort Worth conferences.Infor- mation disseminated at the conferencesincluded Council publications, such as the Program Alert and the Council Communique,and partici- pants’ material, including information on shelters and state and local programs. The conferencesalso included breakout sessionson such topics as how to obtain federal funds and/or properties for shelters, as well as sessionsgiving information on programs not under the McKinney Act that assist the homeless. Making the Regional The McKinney Act requires the Council to provide professional and Coordinators Full-Time Has technical assistanceon programs for the homelessto states, localities, Increased Their Effectiveness and other public and private nonprofit agencies.In our March 1989 tes- timony, we stated that although the Council’s then part-time regional coordinators were important connectorslinking the Council with the states, only half of the coordinators were active in their outreach effort. We also concludedthat the regional coordinators had problems obtaining information from the Council. During this review, we found that the current Council has addressedthese problems. In May 1989, the Chairman of the Council provided 10 HUD employeesto work full-time as the Council’s regional coordinators in each of HUD'S 10 federal regions. In addition, member agenciesdesignatedrepresentatives from their respective agenciesto serve as part-time field coordinators. There are presently 124 field coordinators, who, having other regular agency responsibilities, assist the Council part-time. Page 5 GAO/RCED-90-172 Interagency Council on the Homeless B-240086 The principal duties and responsibilities of the full-time regional coor- dinators are to provide technical assistancein the field, promote the use and implementation of the McKinney Act programs by the public and private sector, and provide direction to the part-time field coordinators. The Council sponsoreda two-day orientation sessionfor the full-time regional coordinators in May 1989 and held a training workshop in Jan- uary 1990 to discusstheir overall mission and review specific duties and responsibilities. These training sessionsare supplemented by weekly activities: teleconferencecalls, regional activity reports to the Council, and Council staff mailings of information on homelessnessissuesand programs. The part-time field coordinators’ primary Council responsibility is to provide technical assistanceto individuals and organizations seeking general or specific information about programs and activities for the homeless.In addition, the part-time field coordinators are supposedto attend monthly Council meetings with their full-time regional coordi- nator, assist in planning and conducting Council workshops, and provide the full-time regional coordinators with information for the weekly report to the Council. The Council Provides Council member agenciesand staff collect information on federal, state, Information to Over 25,000 and local programs and activities. This information is shared with the Individuals and Groups regional coordinators, state contacts, assistanceproviders, and others interested in serving the homeless.Council documentsused to dissemi- nate information on homelessnessinclude the Program Alert, the Flash Alert, the Council Communique,the McKinney Act program guide, the Council’s resource list, and a list of federal programs not under the McKinney Act that help the homeless,Many of these documents are issued to over 25,000 individuals and groups, including federal, state, and local officials; public and private nonprofit organizations; advocacy and interest groups; assistanceproviders; and concernedcitizens. (See app. III for additional information on selectedCouncil publications.) In July 1989, the Council issued the McKinney Act program guide. The guide provides summaries of McKinney Act programs-their purposes, eligible applicants, and program contacts. The Council’s resourcelist provides an updated list of contact people for homelessnessissuesat both the federal and state levels. Finally, the Council prepared and issued a booklet describing over 60 federal programs not under the McKinney Act that are available to help the homeless. Page 6 GAO/RCED-SO-172 Interagency Council on the Homeless c The Council also has a data basethat provides funding information on the various McKinney Act programs. The data basecurrently contains information on “first recipients” of McKinney Act funding by program, by state, and by region. Funding information is currently available for 1987 through 1989. The system is capable of ranking states by total funding for a single year or for the entire period the programs were funded. This information is routinely disseminatedto the full-time regional coordinators and to state contacts and is also available upon request. Officials and For our March 1989 testimony, we conducted a telephone survey of 18 state officials and 11 local assistanceproviders to obtain their views of Assistance Providers the Council’s effectiveness.Almost half of the state officials we talked Basically Satisfied to had not been contacted by the Council’s then part-time regional coor- dinators. In other instances,the Council had not provided the informa- With Council Services tion neededto effectively implement and coordinate McKinney Act programs at the state level. During this review, we again surveyed 24 of the 29 organizations (16 state officials and 8 local assistanceproviders) to determine whether their perception of the new Council’s activities differed from the servicesprovided by the previous Council. We asked the officials and assistanceproviders to rate the servicespro- vided by the Council using a scaleranging from very effective to very ineffective. Over two-thirds of the respondentswho rated the Council- headquarters and regional-said the Council was somewhat to very effective in monitoring, evaluating, and recommendingimprovements in programs; providing professional and technical assistance;and col- lecting and disseminating information. In addition, approximately two- thirds of the respondentssaid that the Council should be reauthorized becauseit is doing a goodjob coordinating federal assistanceprograms for the homeless. Four of the 24 state officials and local assistanceproviders we contacted suggestedthat the Council could more effectively fulfill its responsibili- ties by visiting more state and local programs. In this way, the Council could better understand the actual problems in these programs and pos- sible solutions. In addition, a few of the respondentssaid that more spe- cific information on innovative and model programs and on how to apply for McKinney Act program funds would be helpful. Page 7 GAO/RCED-90-172 Interagency Council on the Homeless B240086 In our March 1989 testimony, we noted that the Council’s 1988 annual 1989 Annual Report report contained only general policy recommendationsand did not Focusedon Federal specify the level of federal assistancenecessaryto resolve the problem Assistance and Made of homelessness.In contrast, the Council’s 1989 annual report presents data on the federal responseto homelessness,the nature of homeless- Recommendations ness,specific accomplishmentsand activities of the Council, and the Administration’s policies and strategies to addresshomelessness.It also recommendedthat the Congress l fully fund the McKinney Act programs as expeditiously as possible and . reauthorize the McKinney Act programs through fiscal year 1991. In addition, the annual report recommendedthat . federal and other assistanceshould support, and actively encourage, comprehensiveapproachesto help homelessindividuals and families and promote self-reliance; . public and private assistancefor homelessindividuals and families be redirected from emergencyservicesand shelter to longer-term housing and continuing support services;and l the federal government actively research,experiment with, and eval- uate innovative ways to assist homelesspeople. The Council has made substantial improvements to correct past Conclusions problems under the leadership of its current Chairman. The creation of the 10 full-time regional coordinators has strengthened the Council’s field coordination efforts. In addition, state officials and local assistance providers contacted during our telephone survey said that the Council’s activities and operations were somewhat to very effective. Furthermore, the Council’s 1989 annual report focused on federal assistanceefforts for the homelessand made recommendationsthat we believe will be useful to the Congressin its policy deliberations. The Council is only authorized through fiscal year 1990. Becausethe 18 Recommendation to McKinney Act programs are administered by 7 federal agencies,a mech- the Congress anism is neededto coordinate, monitor, evaluate, and recommend improvements in these programs and assist in their implementation. Therefore, we recommendthat the/2ongressreauthorize the Interagency Council on the IIomeless. This reauthorization would allow the Council to coordinate the McKinney Act programs and help ensure that the Page 0 GAO/RCED-90-172 Interagency Council on the Homeleas B-240086 urgently neededassistanceprovided by the Congressthrough the McKinney Act is provided to the homeless. To obtain information for this report we examined documentsrelevant to the Council’s role, including minutes of the full Council meetings, Council publications, weekly status reports of the full-time regional coordinators, and the Council’s 1989 annual report. We interviewed HUD'S Assistant Secretary for Community Planning and Development, as well as the Council’s Executive Director and other staff. We also inter- viewed all 10 of the Council’s full-time regional coordinators and 24 of the 29 state officials and local assistanceproviders we had contacted for our March 1989 testimony. We discussedthe information presented in this report with the responsible agency officials and incorporated their comments and suggestionswhere appropriate. As agreed,we did not obtain written comments.Weperformed our review in accordancewith generally acceptedgovernment auditing standards from July 1989 to April 1990. This work was done under the direction of John M. Ols, Jr., Director, Housing and Community Development Issues.If you have any questions concerningthis report, pleasecontact Mr. 01son (202) 275-6626.Major contributors to this report are listed in appendix IV. J. Dexter Peach Assistant Comptroller General Page 9 GAO/RCED-!W-172 Interagency C!ouncUon the Homeless . Contents Letter Appendix I Budget Data for the Interagency Council on the Homeless, Fiscal Years 1989-91 Appendix II The Organizational Structure of the Interagency Council on the Homeless Appendix III SelectedCouncil Publications Appendix IV 16 Major Contributors to This Report Figure Figure II. 1 Organizational Structure of the Interagency Council on the Homeless Abbreviations GAO U.S. General Accounting Office HHS Department of Health and Human Services HUD Department of Housing and Urban Development Page 10 GAO/RCED-SO-172 Interagency Council on the Homeless ? Page 11 GAO/RCED-90-172 Interagency Council on the Homeless J I * Appendix I * Budget Data for the Interagency Council on the Homeless,F’iscalYears 1989-91 Dollars -_. in Thousands ___ -.. ..~. _,_- _-___ Funding Budget Current Actual estimate estimate Chan e Category .-_..__.-__ ..._... ~..-.._._ --..- 1989 1990 1990 -%lK 1990to19 %1 Budget authority 1,100 1,200 1,083 1,214 +131 Obligations ._........ _..I-..- _. _.. . . -__-.__--..-- 686 1,346 1,900 1,214 -686 Outlays .._....___ _...-__.__ ,... -.__-~.. 718 1,300 1,900 1,376 -524- _...... __..-..._ ._.. __...._._-- ____ Breakdown of obligations Personal services 468 481 640 663 -23 Travel ._^._ (persons) .._.__-...-..- . . . ..- -- 68 200 200 200 0 Travel (things) 0 3 3 3 0 Rent, communications, _._- ._--_.....-_..-_- utilities ..-_- 30 10 60 60 0 Printing, reproductions __-- .._._...._ --. ---_-.--_--__-_I_ 23 40 330 93 -237 Other services 91 567 622 150 -472 Supplies, materials 4 15 15 15 0 Furniture, equipment 2 30 30 30 0 Total 888 1.348 1.900 1.214 -888 _... ._~.. . .--._... ~~-. - _-- Staffing Number __._..._...of full-time personnel .._.._.~.~~. ..~_..._ - 10 10 12 12 0 Number of appointments at end of vear 10 10 12 12 0 Total staff-years 9.1 10 12 12 0 Source: Interagency Council on the Homeless. Page 12 GAO/RCED-99-172 Interagency Council on the Homeless Appendix II The Organizational Structure of the Interagency Council on the Homeless On March 3,1989, the former Executive Director of the Interagency Council on the Homelessresigned, and the remaining staff were subse- quently replaced. The former Chairman and the remaining Council mem- bers were also replaced becauseof the changein Administrations. At their first full Council meeting in April 1989,the current Council mem- bers elected the Secretary of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) as the Chairman and the Secretary of Health and Human Services(HHS) as the Vice Chairman. The Executive Director was also approved at this meeting. The current Council was fully staffed by late May 1989. As specified in the McKinney HomelessAssistanceAct, the Council is scheduledto ceaseoperations on October 1, 1990. The current Council is composedof the heads (or their representatives) of federal departments and agenciesconcernedwith homelessness.The Council membersare the Secretariesof Agriculture, Commerce,Defense, Education, Energy, HHS, HUD, Interior, Labor, Transportation, and Vet- erans Affairs, and the headsof four independent agencies:ACTION, the Federal Emergency ManagementAgency, the General ServicesAdminis- tration, and the U.S. Postal Service.In 1989,the Council added repre- sentatives from the Executive Office of the President’s Low Income Opportunity Board and the Office of Managementand Budget. The Council also consistsof 12 full-time staff membersin Washington, D.C., as well as 10 full-time regional coordinators provided by HUD. The other member agenciesprovide part-time field coordinators. The activities necessaryto carry out policies and priorities established by the Council are further developedby a policy group, assistedby Council staff. The policy group, composedof subcabinet-levelrepresent- atives from each member agency,meets monthly to discusspolicy issues that affect program areas,to determine appropriate actions, to direct implementation of specific assignmentsat their agencies,and to provide the full Council with policy options and recommendations.The Execu- tive Director chairs these monthly meetings. When a specific issue requires examination for a considerableamount of time, the policy group creates an ad hoc working group. A working group consistsof agency representatives, including technical staff. Once the working group has concludedits objective, it reports its findings to the policy group. Page 13 GAO/RCED-90-172 Interagency C!ouncil on the Homeless Appendix II The Organizational Structure of the Interagency Council on the Homeless Flgure 11.1Organizational Structure of the Interagency Council on the Homeless r l- Policy Oroup (Representatives of member agendas) Offloo of the Executive Dlrector Regional Coordinator8 Executive Director Deputy Director Worklng Qroupr Policy Analyst Staff Assistant I . Fldd Monltorlng end Coordlnrdon Evaluatlon Publlc Liaison Admlnllrtration Director Director Director Director Special Assistent Program Analyst Secretary Secretary Source: Interagency Council on the Homeless. Page 14 GAO/RCED-90-172 Interagency Council on the Homeless Appendix III SelectedCouncil Publications These publications contain information regarding McKinney Act and Program and Flash non-McKinney Act programs available to help the homeless,including Alerts funding levels, regulatory actions, application deadlines, eligible appli- cants, and the appropriate federal contact. The Program Alert is distrib- uted on an as-neededbasis to over 26,000 individuals and groups. Thirteen issueswere published between April 1989 and April 1990. The Flash Alert is issued to the full-time regional coordinators and state con- tacts. It is distributed on an as-neededbasis. Twenty-one issueswere published between April 1989 and April 1990. Thesepublications contain pertinent information relevant to homeless- Fact Sheets ness.They are disseminated either as inserts in the Program Alert or the Council Communique or are submitted for distribution at regional work- shopsor other meetings on request. This publication covers general items of interest to those involved with Council Communique homelessissuesand highlights exemplary federal, state, and local pro- grams. It is issued bimonthly and distributed to over 26,000 individuals and groups. Six issueswere published between April 1989 and April 1990. Page 15 GAO/RCED-90-172 Interagency Council on the Homeless Appendix IV Major Contributors to This Report Marnie Shaul, Assistant Director Resources, GeneAloise, Assignment Manager Community, and Vondalee R. Hunt, Evaluator-in-Charge Economic Development Division, Washington, D.C. (386186) Page 16 GAO/RCED-90-172 Interagency Council on the Homeless Ordt~rs tttttst, be prepaid by css11 or by chwk or money order ma& out. t,o the Sttpt~rittt,c~ridc~ttt, of D0c~tttnettt.s. ,.. . ~ . I I ..-. - ..__. ._______.._ ._ ~- _I__.-_--.-- r I-- Firs t,-( kss Mail I’ostagt~ XL Fees Paid GAO I’t~rtnit, No. GlOO I i
Homelessness: Changes in the Interagency Council on the Homeless Make It More Effective
Published by the Government Accountability Office on 1990-07-11.
Below is a raw (and likely hideous) rendition of the original report. (PDF)