Monitoring, Evaluation and Learning

Evaluation of the Conrad N. Hilton Foundation Chronic Homelessness Initiative: 2012 Report

October 2012

Abt Associates Inc. was contracted by the Conrad N. Hilton Foundation in September 2011 to conduct an evaluation of the Hilton Foundation's Chronic Homelessness Initiative, a strategy designed to reduce and eliminate chronic homelessness within the Los Angeles County region. Since the beginning of the Initiative in January 2011, the Foundation has distributed nearly $18 million in multi-year grants to 14 nonprofit groups working in Los Angeles. The grants are focused on regional systems change and capacity-building, targeted programs to house and serve chronically homeless individuals, and dissemination of knowledge on emerging and evidence-based practices to prevent and end chronic homelessness.

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Media Contact

Julia Friedman

Communications Manager

The evaluation is intended to answer the overarching question: Is the Chronic Homelessness Initiative an effective strategy to end and prevent chronic homelessness in Los Angeles County? The evaluation will provide both interim milestones related to improving the systems designed to house and serve people experiencing chronic homelessness and estimates of the effect of the development and operation of permanent supportive housing (PSH) on its residents and on chronic homelessness itself.

The Foundation articulated the following five-year strategic goals for the Initiative, significant milestones toward the goal of ending and preventing chronic homelessness in Los Angeles:

  • Demonstrated action by elected and public officials to support a systemic approach to addressing chronic homelessness;
  • $15 million in private funds allocated directly toward PSH;
  • $75 million in public sector funds realigned toward PSH;
  • 3,000 new PSH units constructed or in the development pipeline;
  • 1,000 scattered site PSH units made available with necessary operating and service funding;
  • 1,000 of the most vulnerable chronically homeless persons housed in PSH;
  • A system of prioritizing chronically homeless persons for PSH in place; and
  • Increased capacity of developers and providers to provide PSH effectively.

The goals and the Foundation’s associated grant investments reflect an underlying theory of what the Hilton Foundation thought was needed in order to address chronic homelessness in Los Angeles. The evaluation team documented the unspoken rationale behind the investments in a Theory of Change, developed through discussions with Foundation staff and other key stakeholders. Briefly, the theory is that to end chronic homelessness, Los Angeles needs significantly more PSH resources and a formal system of linking chronically homeless individuals with available PSH based on well-established priorities for identifying who is chronically homeless and who among those should be placed in housing first. Further, the theory recognizes that to develop more PSH resources, the community will need consensus that PSH should be a priority, political will to overcome funding and siting battles that have hampered wide-spread development of PSH in the past, commitments from funders to develop the units needed, and increased capacity among housing and service providers to effectively target PSH to chronically homeless people.

This document provides the evaluation team’s report on the first 18 months of the Initiative, covering actions undertaken and results accomplished from January 2011 through July 2012. The report provides an assessment of each of the goals within the context of the Theory of Change. Each goal is examined in relation to whether there is sufficient data to adequately measure progress on the goal and then, if possible, the extent to which each goal has been attained.

The assessment is based on: information collected from 460 local stakeholders through a web-based survey; interviews with 50 people representing 43 public and private non-grantee organizations; interviews with 30 people from the Foundation’s 2011 grantees; 4 focus groups with formerly homeless PSH residents; analysis of data from Hilton Foundation grantees – especially Home For Good, the Corporation for Supportive Housing, and Community Solutions; analysis of Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority (LAHSA) point-in-time count estimates; and independent documentation of other local actions and events. Data were reviewed and cleaned by the evaluation team, and validated against other sources when available.