Homelessness:

Coordination and Evaluation of Programs Are Essential

RCED-99-49: Published: Feb 26, 1999. Publicly Released: Feb 26, 1999.

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Pursuant to a congressional request, GAO reviewed the federal approach to meeting the needs of the homeless, focusing on: (1) identifying and describing characteristics of the federal programs specifically targeted, or reserved, for the homeless, and key nontargeted programs available to assist low-income people generally; (2) identifying the amounts and types of funding for these programs in fiscal year (FY) 1997; and (3) determining if federal agencies have coordinated their efforts to assist homeless people and developed outcome measures for their targeted programs.

GAO noted that: (1) 50 federal programs administered by eight federal agencies can provide services to homeless people; (2) of the 50 programs, 16 are targeted, or reserved for the homeless, and 34 are nontargeted, or available to low-income people generally; (3) while all of the nontargeted programs GAO identified may serve homeless people, the extent to which they do so is generally unknown; (4) both targeted and nontargeted programs provide an array of services, such as housing, health care, job training, and transportation; (5) in some cases, programs operated by more than one agency offer the same type of service; (6) 26 programs administered by six agencies offer food and nutrition services, including food stamps, school lunch subsidies, and supplements for food banks; (7) in fiscal year (FY) 1997, over $1.2 billion in obligations was reported for programs targeted to the homeless, and about $215 billion in obligations was reported for nontargeted programs that serve people with low incomes, which can include the homeless; (8) over three fourths of the funding for the targeted programs is provided through project grants, which are allocated to service providers and state and local governments through formula grants; (9) information is not available on how much of the funding for nontargeted programs is used to assist homeless people; (10) however, a significant portion of the funding for nontargeted programs is not used to serve the homeless; (11) about 20 percent of the funding for nontargeted programs provided through formula grants; (12) the remainder of the funding for nontargeted programs consists of direct payments and project grants; (13) federal efforts to assist the homeless are being coordinated in several ways, and many agencies have established performance measures for their efforts; (14) some departments administer specific programs jointly; (15) although some coordination is occurring through the use of these mechanisms and most agencies that administer targeted programs for the homeless have identified crosscutting responsibilities related to homelessness under the Government Performance and Results Act, the agencies have not yet described how they will coordinate or consolidate their efforts at the strategic level; and (16) most agencies have established process or output measures for the services they provide to the homeless through their targeted programs, but they have not consistently incorporated results-oriented goals and outcome measures related to homelessness in their plans.

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