Transitional Housing Shows Initial Success but Long-term Effects Unknown

RCED-91-200: Published: Sep 9, 1991. Publicly Released: Nov 5, 1991.

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Pursuant to a congressional request, GAO reviewed the Department of Housing and Urban Development's (HUD) Transitional Housing Program for the homeless, focusing on: (1) the extent to which the program helped homeless people move to independent living; (2) factors influencing successful transitions; (3) the types of clients assisted; (4) the types of services provided; and (5) HUD monitoring and evaluation of grantees.

GAO found that: (1) about 40 percent of transitional housing clients successfully obtained housing and a source of income; (2) about half of the clients that did not successfully complete the program left voluntarily, while the others left because they did not comply with program rules or they exceeded the maximum length of stay; (3) characteristics affecting client success included length of stay, number of services received, household structure, lack of mental illness or substance abuse problems, and primary cause of homelessness; (4) projects followed the legislative intent of targeting deinstitutionalized persons, other individuals with mental disabilities, and families and children; (5) most projects used a case management approach to help clients receive needed services and move to independent living within 24 months after project entry; and (6) support services included housing placement, entitlement or benefits assistance, psychological counseling, job training, medical care, child care, and basic life skills guidance. GAO also found that: (1) in response to monitoring problems identified during 1989 and 1990, HUD substantially increased its on-site monitoring of such programs and issued new project monitoring guidance; (2) HUD intended to comprehensively evaluate the Transitional Housing Program, but its focus on client progress while participating in projects would not assess long-term success; and (3) HUD required 1991 grantees to describe client follow-up approaches, but did not clearly require such followup or the data collection needed to assess program effectiveness.

Recommendation for Executive Action

  1. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: HUD issued instructions to transitional housing grantees in May 1992 that specify what data HUD needs to evaluate the program and that requires the grantees to report these data to HUD annually. The required data include information about the kind of clients served and whether clients obtained, and remained in, permanent housing.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of Housing and Urban Development should direct the Office of Special Needs Assistance Programs to specify which data will enable HUD to fully evaluate the Transitional Housing Program's effectiveness and require that grantees collect those data. At a minimum, this should include information about the kind of client served and whether the client obtained, and remained in, permanent housing.

    Agency Affected: Department of Housing and Urban Development


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