Homelessness:

Overview of Current Issues and GAO Studies

T-RCED-99-125: Published: Mar 23, 1999. Publicly Released: Mar 23, 1999.

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Pursuant to a congressional request, GAO discussed its recently issued report and its ongoing and planned body of work on homelessness.

GAO noted that: (1) last month, GAO completed a study identifying key federal programs that could potentially serve the homeless; (2) GAO found that both the targeted and nontargeted programs provide an array of services, such as housing, health care, job training, and transportation; (3) in some cases, programs operated by more than one agency offer the same type of service; (4) GAO also determined that over $1.2 billion was obligated in fiscal year 1997 for programs that specifically served the homeless and about $215 billion was obligated for programs that served low-income populations, including the homeless; (5) although information is not available on how much of the funding for nontargeted programs is used to assist homeless people, GAO estimates that a significant portion of funding is not likely to benefit them; (6) given the multiple agencies and the large number of programs that can potentially serve the homeless, GAO believes that coordination among federal agencies and evaluations of programs' effectiveness are essential to ensure that these programs achieve their desired outcomes in a cost-effective manner; (7) GAO found that federal efforts to assist the homeless are coordinated in several ways, and many agencies have established performance measures as required by the Government Performance and Results Act of 1993; (8) GAO found that most agencies that administer targeted programs for the homeless have identified crosscutting responsibilities related to homelessness, but few have attempted the more challenging task of describing how they expect to coordinate their efforts with those of other agencies or develop common outcome measures; (9) while most federal agencies have established process or output measures for the services they provide to the homeless through their targeted programs, they have not consistently developed results-oriented and outcome measures for homelessness in their plans; (10) while some agencies have developed outcome measures for their targeted programs, other agencies either plan to develop outcome measures in the future or told GAO that developing such measures would be too difficult; and (11) GAO concludes that federal agencies have not taken full advantage of the Results Act and that their efforts could be strengthened through increased coordination and the development of common outcome measures for federal programs that serve the homeless.

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