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Ward Family Foundation - Best Practice Studies / Safe Haven Programs

Homeless Shelters and Programs
Analysis of Benchmarks and Best Practices, July 2002

This study analyzed the operating practices at homeless shelters and programs in a number of key areas, including sources of revenues, partnerships, caseworker assistance, intake procedures, food, counseling, health care and mental health, alcohol and drug abuse recovery, educational and life skills training, personal development, employment, computer training, spiritual guidance, housing placement, outreach services post-shelter and success measurement. In total, 22 homeless programs (including both emergency and transitional programs) in the Washington, D.C. and Cincinnati, Ohio areas participated in this comprehensive study.

The objectives of the study were as follows:

  • Evaluate homeless program operating practices
  • Provide meaningful homeless program performance comparisons
  • Survey the practices that homeless programs have implemented to improve their effectiveness
  • Develop benchmarks to measure effectiveness

Key Conclusions
Homeless program operating practices vary widely from program to program, and there is minimal consistency in the practices, procedures, measurements and approaches implemented. Most of the homeless programs studied were unable to measure the success rate of its graduates for any meaningful period of time (beyond six months), primarily due to a lack of available resources. We believe the only objective measure of long term effectiveness of homeless programs is the success rate of its graduates in the years subsequent to departure from the program. The study identifies and analyzes 10 potential best practices for homeless shelters and programs.

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