Evaluation


NOTE: This toolkit was published by Building Changes in 2013 to help counties meet a 2014 state mandate that all counties have a coordinated entry system for clients entering the homeless system. It has not been updated since then and does not necessarily reflect current or best practice.

Performance measurement is an opportunity to see tangible results of work that often goes unrecognized. With these results, funders and providers can assess whether their mission and strategies to reduce and end homelessness are on track and if they are making a difference in their communities.

A primary component of evaluation planning should include a communication strategy that consists of regular meetings with stakeholders to review evaluation results. Evaluation data will drive decision making on coordinated entry and other systems change that reflects a cultural shift for funders, direct service providers, partner-agency leadership, government agencies, and associated systems. Direct-service providers will be most affected by the changes to the housing-services continuum. Their buy-in to this cultural shift is essential.

Funders and grantees want to "see" the effectiveness of their efforts in addressing homelessness. Thoughtful discussions with partners of evaluation results and proposed adjustments will contribute to successful broad-based systems change.

Ensure that the evaluation process speaks to the mission and goals everyone is working toward: to reduce and end homelessness. Evaluation of a coordinated entry system must hold the tension between what coordinated entry can do on its own and the long-range expected outcomes of comprehensive systems change. Commonly tracked indicators include:

  • Intake, assessment, and referral process
  • Outcomes for all demographics
  • New entries into homelessness
  • Length of time in homelessness (shelter stays)
  • Rate of returns to homelessness
  • Gaps in services
  • Number of turnaways

Be thoughtful about the data to be collected and evaluated. Try to avoid data overload by having clear intentions for the evaluation process. Coordinated entry cannot be evaluated on its own to meet long-term goals. Therefore, an evaluation process might report on short-term outcomes (e.g., vacancy rates in shelter/transitional programs and appropriate household-to-provider matches) as initial indicators of a system that is moving toward its "north-star" goal—reducing and ending homelessness.

Next: Evaluation Checklist