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Field Notes: Incentivizing Performance - Improving the Homeless Assistance System
March 14, 2012
The HEARTH Act will significantly change the way the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) funds homelessness assistance. Communities will be expected to work towards the federal goal that no one remains homeless for longer than 30 days. Additionally, performance on new outcomes will be measured, including reducing lengths of homeless episodes, and reducing new and returning entries into homelessness.
How can your community encourage homelessness programs to perform better on these outcomes? I recently spoke with Elaine de Coligny, Executive Director of EveryOne Home in Alameda, on the unique incentive they have devised – a prize.
EveryOne Home, a community-based nonprofit that coordinates Alameda County, California’s plan to end homelessness, has recently announced the 2012 Outcomes Achievement Awards. Programs that make the most progress on key community-wide outcomes will now be rewarded with one of two prizes.
The idea for the awards came to Elaine during a Performance Improvement Clinic (formerly called the HEARTH Academy) the Alliance held with Alameda County stakeholders in June of last year. She then approached a funder EveryOne Home had a previous relationship with, the Y&H Soda Foundation, about the idea. Elaine says the Y&H Soda Foundation was excited to support the initiative, and generously funded two achievement awards. The first award for $10,000 will be given to the highest achieving program, and the second for $5,000 will be given to the most improved program. Awards will be made to programs that have the highest rate of exits out of homelessness to permanent housing in the shortest time from program entry.
One of the most exciting aspects of the award is that programs do not need to fill out a single application form. The outcome data used to determine the achievement of programs will come directly from the information they enter into HMIS. This way, programs can concentrate on moving people to permanent housing rather than filling out paperwork. This is possible because of the work Alameda County has done to make their HMIS system generate reports and data that they can use strategically to measure success on key outcomes.
Elaine hopes that these awards, which will be given out in early 2013, will energize the approximately 50 programs in Alameda County eligible for the awards to improve their outcomes. If so, she says, there may be more awards available in the future.