On June 6, the New York City Department of Homeless Services (DHS) released an evaluation of the Homebase Community Prevention Program’s effects upon use of homeless shelters and other services for the homeless in New York City. Abt Associates carried out the investigation in partnership with the University of the Sciences. The study finds that the Homebase program was successful in reducing the average amount of time that participants spend in homeless shelters from an average of 32.2 nights over a two year period for non-participants to 9.6 nights over the same period for program participants.
The goal of the Homebase program is to help at-risk families in New York City avoid becoming homeless and to prevent long-term and repeated shelter stays. Homebase Community Prevention (CP), from which the study participants were drawn, is the branch of the Homebase program that seeks to prevent homelessness from occurring. Families that are at risk of becoming homeless but are not residing in the shelter system are eligible to receive intensive case management services as well as limited financial aid, with the goal of achieving a more stable housing situation for the family and connecting them to community resources and services.
The study, conducted from 2010 to 2013 across eleven Homebase CP program sites in New York City, enrolled 295 families with at least one minor child. Of these families, 150 participated in the Homebase Community Prevention program and 145 non-participants served as the control group. The program was assessed as to the effects of Homebase CP services on shelter entry rates; use of assistance programs such as SNAP, TANF, and one-shot assistance; involvement with the child welfare system; and workforce outcomes. Three New York social services agencies and the New York State Department of Labor collected these data.
Homebase CP participants are spending an average of 22.6 fewer nights in shelters than non-participants, and are 8.9% less likely to apply for emergency shelter in the 27 months after the study than non-participants. Researchers found that every dollar spent on administering Homebase leads to a $1.06 reduction in shelter costs, and Homebase CP saved taxpayers an average of $2,235 per participant during the study period. Enrollment in Homebase CP does not appear to have a statistically significant influence on participant usage of SNAP, TANF, and one-shot assistance programs. Similarly, Homebase CP enrollment did not significantly impact involvement in child welfare services or income assistance programs.
However, enrollment in Homebase CP does appear to correlate with shorter stays in shelters when families enter the shelter system. During the study period, participants in Homebase that entered the shelter system stayed 120 nights on average, whereas non-participants stayed an average of 233 nights. This finding is unexpected, as the goal of Homebase CP was to reduce shelter entry and families that do enter shelters were to receive no additional program assistance in comparison to non-participants. The researchers hypothesize that Homebase CP may be particularly effective at preventing the families that would stay for long periods of time in the shelter system from entering shelters in the first place. Alternately, it is possible that Homebase CP imparts skills and habits that make families adept at exiting the shelter system more quickly than their non-participating counterparts. The report calls for additional research to explain this unanticipated finding.
Though the study focuses on a particular homelessness prevention program in New York City, the results are relevant to the prevention of homelessness nationwide. This research demonstrates that preventative programs such as Homebase can be effective in engaging families at risk of homelessness and preventing them from entering the shelter system. The Homebase CP case study provides an example and lessons from which social service providers across the country can learn.
Access the complete study, Evaluation of the Homebase Community Prevention Program, at: http://bit.ly/13vDXPA