The United States Interagency Council on Homelessness (USICH) on June 1 released “USICH Report to Congress: Community Forum to Discuss GAO Recommendation to Develop a Common Federal Vocabulary on Housing Status,” a report summarizing a day-long meeting convened by USICH on January 26. A broad range of stakeholders discussed and analyzed the possible creation and implementation of a common federal vocabulary and data standard on housing status at the meeting.
Currently, the definition of homelessness differs across federal agencies, making it difficult for the government to gauge the true extent of the problem and engage in data sharing and performance management activities. USICH continues to assess the benefits and challenges of creating standardized terminology and data standards.
Based on the discussion at the January 26 meeting, USICH has identified the next step in this process as the development of a “common vocabulary to describe the many different manifestations of homelessness.” If and when this common vocabulary is agreed upon by the relevant agencies, the next step will be to create a data standard, enabling agencies to use a “common housing question with standardized response categories that targeted and mainstream programs could adopt, where feasible, as part of their existing reporting requirements.”
The report to Congress and the January 26 meeting were the result of a June 2010 Government Accountability Office (GAO) report, “Homelessness: A Common Vocabulary Could Help Agencies Collaborate and Collect More Consistent Data.” The GAO recommended that the Departments of Education, Health and Human Services, and HUD “develop a common vocabulary for homelessness; and determine if the benefits of collecting data on housing status in targeted and mainstream programs would exceed the costs.” The GAO report recommended that the agencies work through USICH to meet these objectives.
A copy of the USICH report is available at: http://www.usich.gov/resources/uploads/asset_library/USICH_Report_-Common_Housing_Status_Vocabulary.pdf
A copy of the GAO report is available at: http://www.gao.gov/new.items/d10702.pdf