Online Program

Promise of Permanent Supportive Housing: Findings from the Washington Youth and Families Fund High Needs Family Program Evaluation

Tuesday, November 3, 2015 : 3:10 p.m. - 3:30 p.m.

Debra Rog, PhD, Westat, Inc, Rockville, MD
Kathryn Henderson, PhD, Westat, Rockville, MD
Andrew Greer, PhD, Westat, Rockville, MD
Supportive housing for families has been on the landscape for twenty years, but the body of research supporting it is uneven.   Prior studies (e.g., NCFH, 2009; Farrell et al, 2012; Nolan et al, 2005) have focused on a range of supportive housing models, but often have lacked information on their implementation.  Most were descriptive (lacking comparison groups), and had populations with a wide range of needs, including families who likely did not need the intervention.  Findings from evaluations of these programs, therefore, are limited in the guidance they provide.

The Washington Youth and Families Fund High Needs Family (HNF) program and its evaluation have incorporated features that increase the potential for clearer guidance to policy makers, including:

  • a rigorous screening process that identifies families who have a history of chronic homelessness and at least two current service needs and/or housing barriers;
  • a fidelity assessment of each program’s implementation of the model;  
  • in-depth assessments of 358 HNF families’ needs and outcomes; and
  • a longitudinal, quasi-experimental design using Washington State’s comprehensive Integrated Client Database.  Data on a range of services received and outcomes (e.g., ER use) for HNF families are compared with data for two propensity score matched comparison groups (families in shelter who represent a “status quo” group and families who receive housing without services).

Begun in 2008 and operating in 19 sites in Washington State, the HNF model incorporates a housing-first orientation, as well as an emphasis on harm reduction.  The program aims to improve families’ housing stability and access to needed services, and in turn, families’ physical and behavioral health, educational attainment and employment, and preservation and/or re-unification with children.

This presentation, coordinated with three other abstracts being submitted, provides an overview of families’ needs and characteristics, and findings related to housing stability, educational attainment and employment, and reunification with children.   HNF families as a whole have 3x the rate of reunification with their children than shelter comparison families, but comparable rates of education and employment.  Families exit the HNF program at a higher rate than previous studies (48% within 12 months), likely due to their constellation of needs, but those who stay in the program have significant improvements on all outcomes.  The findings from this evaluation are timely, as local and national policy-makers grapple with the mix of housing needed in homeless service delivery systems and determining who might best be served with different housing options.

Learning Areas:

Conduct evaluation related to programs, research, and other areas of practice
Program planning
Public health or related public policy
Social and behavioral sciences

Learning Objectives:
Demonstrate the effects of a permanent supportive housing program for homeless families with multiple barriers on service access and outcomes.

Keyword(s): Homelessness, Evaluation

Presenting author's disclosure statement:

Qualified on the content I am responsible for because: Principal Investigator of the Evaluation
Any relevant financial relationships? No

I agree to comply with the American Public Health Association Conflict of Interest and Commercial Support Guidelines, and to disclose to the participants any off-label or experimental uses of a commercial product or service discussed in my presentation.