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The goal of professionals in the homeless services field is to increase self-sufficiency, reduce recidivism, reduce dependence on public assistance, and improve overall life skills of the homeless populations.The various service programs provided to homeless people are designed to reduce public assistance costs by helping people achieve permanent independence.

Program managers do have quarterly aggregated statistical reports from shelter and service providers regarding the numbers of people being served for payment purposes. However, information about service effectiveness is mostly anecdotal. In 1999, there was little evidence to either support or demonstrate the programs were achieving their intended objectives.

State and local program managers need access to data across service programs and over time to determine the most effective mix of services for particular client populations. This type of data resides in various separate systems or in paper records. As a result, it is unclear that these goals are being systematically achieved.

The investigation, conducted as part of CTG's Using Information in Government Program, included the design and development of a prototype system to help the New York State Office of Temporary and Disability Assistance, Bureau of Housing Services decide if it was:

  • feasible to develop an integrated database from such a wide variety of data sources.
  • possible to accurately match individual client information across multiple systems,
  • reasonable to create a system that would allow for the integration of external data sources,
  • realistic to think that effective partnerships could be formed to support the necessary collaborations to ensure HIMS included the necessary data, and/or
  • possible to create a single definition of effectiveness.