Development of Standard Set of Measures Would Improve Outcomes for Youth Experiencing Homelessness

In 2011, the United States Interagency Council on Homelessness (USICH), in collaboration with multiple federal agencies, developed a systematic framework for ending youth homelessness, which incorporated four core outcome areas. The framework includes stable housing as a core outcome area; other core outcome areas include permanent connections, social-emotional well-being, and education and employment. However, there are glaring gaps in what and how to measure with respect to these outcomes. Inconsistent measures across programs and communities limit the ability to evaluate systems and coordinate with systems and policymakers. A new report, Measuring Up: Youth-level Outcomes and Measures for System Responses to Youth Homelessness, addresses this challenge.

What We Did

The Youth Outcomes Project (YOP)a collaboration between Chapin Hall, Youth Collaboratory, six federal agencies, and a number of leading researchers, practitioners, philanthropists, and youth with lived experience—provides guidance and promotes consensus on what and how to measure within the four broad core outcome areas identified in the USICH Framework to End Youth Homelessness. The project involved a background review of outcomes and measures used by evaluations and programs addressing youth homelessness, consultations with a range of youth and adult stakeholders across the country, and consolidation of inputs and appraisal of measures.

What We Found

For each core outcome area, the report provides a brief context on the importance of each core outcome area and recommendations of top core outcomes that the authors suggest be tracked commonly across communities in system-level efforts to end youth homelessness, along with corresponding best-available measures. We also present suggested options and resources for communities and programs that want to “go further” in youth outcomes measurement for each domain.

Furthermore, we provide additional considerations for measurement and tracking based on the wisdom provided by the focus groups. Their insights speak to the difficulties, unique local needs, and challenges communities will have to consider, as well as reinforce the collective value and importance of all of us doing this work better.

What It Means

This initiative provides a set of metrics for communities that can help facilitate consistent data collection related to core outcomes for youth experiencing homelessness across programs and organizations, regardless of their funding source. This is a starting point rather than an endpoint. We need to collectively continue to improve the experience, evidence, and tools for youth outcomes measurement. This represents an important step forward.

Common outcomes measurement across a community continuum is important for communities and agencies to move toward an outcomes-driven, system-level approach to youth homelessness rather than a programs-driven response. The work to build outcomes-driven systems and services isn’t easy, but it’s worth the effort and investment.

Youth Outcomes Project Final Report