A recently released GAO report, “Opportunities to Reduce Potential Duplication in Government Programs, Save Tax Dollars, and Enhance Revenue,” reveals costly fragmentation and overlap in federal homeless programs. Taxpayers are currently spending billions of dollars on these programs — including “ending homelessness” programs — and yet, homelessness is actually increasing in the U.S. So to hear about wasteful spending is not good news. Below are some quotes from the report, followed by a link to the full report.
from Why Area Is Important:
According to the Department of Housing and Urban Development HUD, approximately 643,000 individuals and persons in families experienced homelessness on a single night in January 2009. Multiple federal programs provide assistance targeted to those experiencing homelessness or more broadly assist low-income populations. GAO reported that in 2009 federal agencies spent about $2.9 billion on over 20 programs targeted to address the various needs of persons experiencing homelessness. Some federal programs may offer similar types of services and serve similar populations, potentially leading to overlap or fragmentation.
from What GAO Found:
GAO reported in July 2010 that at least seven federal agencies administered more than 20 programs that provide some type of shelter or housing assistance. Similarly, five agencies administered programs that deliver food and nutrition services, and four agencies administered programs that provide health services including mental health services and substance abuse treatment. This range of programs has resulted in a fragmented service system.
Without more formal coordination of federal programs to specifically include the linking of supportive services and housing, federal efforts to address homelessness may remain fragmented and not be as effective as they could be.
under Actions Needed:
The plan recognizes that collection, analysis, and reporting of quality, timely data on homelessness are essential for targeting interventions, tracking results, strategic planning, and resource allocation. As noted above, currently each federal program generally has distinct data requirements. The plan acknowledges that a common data standard and uniform performance measures across all federal programs that are targeted at homelessness would facilitate greater understanding and simplify local data management. Consistent with the plan, representatives with USICH noted that agencies are taking steps to improve and coordinate data, specifically citing the December 2010 announcement by the Department of Veterans Affairs to participate in Homeless Information Management Systems over the next 12 months.The formal coordination among agencies outlined in this plan may minimize fragmentation of federal programs and help address gaps in supportive services while linking housing and supportive services. The linking of these services is considered to be important for effectively delivering assistance to those experiencing homelessness.