Making Homelessness Programs Accountable

Dennis Culhane, David Eldridge, Robert Rosenheck and Carol Wilkins

August 1999

This paper discusses how different types of performance measurement can be used to improve the accountability of homeless programs to consumers, funders, and to the public. A distinction is made between the kinds of data used in formal research projects and data that can be practically obtained in a practice setting. Consumer outcomes are discussed in terms of accountability to consumers, program outcomes in terms of accountability to funders, and systems outcomes in terms of accountability to the public. Cost-benefit analyses are also discussed as providing another critical dimension of accountability to funders and the public. If performance effectiveness is determined by appropriate measures of consumer need, services delivered, and outcomes attained, policy makers and practitioners can gain important insight into what policies have the greatest impact on homelessness and what practices serve homeless people the most effectively. A reliable performance accounting system will require collaboration among policymakers, practitioners, and consumers to collect systematic consumer- and program-specific information.

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