Hennepin County, MN: Promising Strategy for Assessment of the Targeting of Homelessness Prevention

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National Alliance to End Homelessness

Solutions Brief | January 5, 2011

Files: PDF | 82 KB | 4 pages

Hennepin County, Minnesota has operated a homelessness prevention program since the state legislature established the Family Homelessness Prevention and Assistance Program (FHPAP) in 1993. In 2010, the County decided to evaluate the program to make sure that it was providing prevention funds to families that would actually have become homeless without them.  It did this by using administrative data to compare the characteristics of families who received assistance with the characteristics of families who became homeless.  The idea was to see if families that FHPAP assisted had the same characteristics as those that became homeless, and were therefore the ones most likely to have become homeless themselves, if not for the FHPAP assistance. 

Hennepin County’s comparison is useful for other communities in two main ways. First, the County’s data on the characteristics of families that DO become homeless indicate that these families are extremely low income and vulnerable. The inference is that prevention funds may be more effective if they are given to families that are similarly extremely low income and vulnerable, since less vulnerable families are less likely to become homeless.  This is useful information to any community operating a prevention program.

Second, the County’s assessment provides a relatively inexpensive, simple model for other communities to use to evaluate their own prevention assistance efforts. More expansive – and expensive – evaluative efforts can certainly provide much more and richer information.  However, this analysis shows that communities without the resources for more comprehensive studies can still evaluate their programs.  For these communities, Hennepin County’s experience presents a promising model for assessing the effectiveness of prevention efforts.

Please see the attached PDF for the methodology and results of the study as well as the steps Hennepin took to adjust their prevention efforts.  This brief also includes implications for other communities and how Hennepein’s study can be applied.