Under a September 2011 contract with the Conrad N. Hilton Foundation, Abt Associates has been conducting an evaluation of the Hilton Foundation’s Chronic Homelessness Initiative with the goal of answering the overarching question: Is the Chronic Homelessness Initiative an effective strategy to end and prevent chronic homelessness in Los Angeles County? The evaluation is designed to provide both interim milestones related to improving the systems for serving people experiencing chronic homelessness and estimates of the effect of permanent supportive housing (PSH) on its residents and on the problem of chronic homelessness. Since the beginning of the Chronic Homelessness Initiative, the Foundation has distributed more than $42.3 million in multi-year grants to 21 nonprofit groups working in LA. The LA grantees include nonprofit groups working on regional systems change and capacity-building, as well as local groups providing direct services to chronically homeless individuals, PSH developers, and public policy advocates.

In this report, the third of the annual updates, the evaluation team documents the significant progress that has been made on each of the six primary Hilton Foundation Chronic Homeless Initiative goals, summarized in the table below. Many of the five-year goals have been exceeded, and most others are on track to be reached within the next two years. These accomplishments are impressive; even more notable is the extensive systems change that has occurred, which promises to ensure continued success.

Primary Recommendations

A number of recommendations for improvement emerged from this year’s evaluation. Activities in all of these areas are already under way at some level within Los Angeles, but we provide the following recommendations to reinforce their importance to the Initiative. Further details are provided for each recommendation in Section 3.

  1. Develop a political engagement strategy that reinforces support among existing champions and cultivates understanding and support among new leaders. In particular, consider re-engaging existing signatories to Home For Good, especially local leaders, and evolving the Home For Good leadership structure to formally engage the public and nonprofit agencies in the governance process.
  2. Refine the PSH housing and services funding model and identify sustainable sources of funding to support PSH services and operations. Analyze data to better understand the actual costs of delivering PSH housing and services and the feasibility of engaging mainstream service system in supporting longterm PSH clients. Based on findings, develop funding projections and an investment strategy for Funders Collaborative grantmaking, complementary private funding, and funding from public agency partners.
  3. Support strategies to expand capital resources for PSH unit creation and preservation, including development strategies by subarea so elected and public officials can build support for targeted investments, advocating for the city and county of Los Angeles to dedicate a portion of redevelopment agency “boomerang” funds to PSH development, and aligning funding to help PSH developers secure capital resources needed to modernize or improve older PSH projects.
  4. Support strategies to increase the supply of scattered site PSH by establishing formal arrangements between housing authorities, CES, and service providers in a coordinated effort to increase the use of homeless limited preferences to provide access to Housing Choice Vouchers and increase use of Shelter Plus Care vouchers for chronically homeless people, including those prioritized and matched through CES.
  5. Establish formal arrangements between housing authorities, CES, and providers to ensure CES coordinators and community-based organizations are able to be responsive to an influx of vouchers and housing authorities are able to accept CES clients while still operating within HUD and Fair Housing requirements.
  6. Continue to support efforts to bring CES to scale, including exploring use of CES as a platform for accessing aligned initiatives and specialized housing. Cultivating an effective inventory management system and clear means of consistently identifying and prioritizing individuals for housing based on their vulnerability and need will both improve access to housing and promote a greater understanding of need and housing supply. As the technology platform of CES improves, it may also be possible to further use CES in conjunction with aligned initiatives and specialized housing such as 10th Decile Projects.
  7. Leverage grantmaking resources to strong community agencies by funding their engagement in underserved areas. This would allow for continued support of strong agencies while expanding their reach systemwide and creating a community of practice.
  8. Coordinate with relevant stakeholders to create a chronic homelessness prevention strategy. Without a clear understanding of the scope of need and a clear strategy to address the problem, we anticipate the community will continue to see inflow into chronic homelessness. Consider dedicating resources to an in-depth study of the issue and developing a community-wide strategy for appropriately responding to highly vulnerable populations, including the possible
    development of an additional, discrete PSH inventory target to meet the identified need.

Significant progress has been made in achieving the five-year goals of the Chronic Homeless Initiative. Consideration of the evaluation recommendations may help to advance efforts by building off prior successes and learning from less fruitful experiences. While the five-year goals remain important markers of progress, the next step for the Initiative will be to look ahead past the end of the Initiative in 2015. In planning for future goals and activity, the evaluation team recommends that the Foundation and Home For Good consider the overall unmet need for PSH for both high and lower priority populations and identify the number of units and funding commitments needed to fill that gap countywide and locally.