Effectiveness of Homeless Services

A study of the short term effectiveness of services for homeless individuals and families was recently completed, under the direction of Ruth Fangmeier, M.S.W. These were the clients of the JBFCS Services to the Homeless program which is under the direction of Pinchas Berger, A.C.S.W., Director of Special Programs.

Caseworkers established service goals for clients at intake, and the researcher conducted follow-up interviews with 85 clients three months later to determine their level of service goal attainment. The sample showed the characteristic heterogeneity of the homeless population with respect to personal and historical variables. These factors, however, were not found to be significantly related to goal attainment. Instead, addressing psychiatric/emotional service needs was found to be an important means of effectively engaging clients to the extent that clients were more likely to return for follow-up maintain contact with the service provider.

The finding of this study have direct application to providing social services to homeless persons. Workers who develop initial service plans for persons who are homeless need to review cases after housing has been secured in order to access needs and establish goals other than housing. It is incorrect to assume that clients who have been periodically or chronically homeless are already known to social service providers.

The different assessment strategies on which the comprehensive services plan is based must include the history of homelessness and the composition of the case, referring to individual or family. These two variables influence the range and type of service needs among homeless clients. Adjustment following a period of homelessness requires long-term, periodic contact with social service providers. However, many clients are lost to follow-up because the client's primary connection was to the provider of the housing per se. In order to provide long-term serviced and to assess the effectiveness of the service plan, homeless clients need to tracked at the site of their housing.

This study was funded by the New York State Department of Social Services, Local Initiative Grant.