Understanding the Collaborative Planning Process in Homeless Services: Networking, Advocacy, and Local Government Support May Reduce Service Gapsedit
Objective: The Continuum of Care (CoC) process-a nationwide system of regional collaborative planning networks addressing homelessness-is the chief administrative method utilized by the US Department of Housing and Urban Development to prevent and reduce homelessness in the United States. The objective of this study is to provide a benchmark comprehensive picture of the structure and practices of CoC networks, as well as information about which of those factors are associated with lower service gaps, a key goal of the initiative. Design: A national survey of the complete population of CoCs in the United States was conducted in 2014 (n = 312, 75% response rate). This survey is the first to gather information on all available CoC networks. Ordinary least squares (OLS) regression was used to determine the relationship between internal networking, advocacy frequency, government investment, and degree of service gaps for CoCs of different sizes. Setting: United States. Participants: Lead contacts for CoCs (n = 312) that responded to the 2014 survey. Main outcome measure: Severity of regional service gaps for people who are homeless. Results: Descriptive statistics show that CoCs vary considerably in regard to size, leadership, membership, and other organizational characteristics. Several independent variables were associated with reduced regional service gaps: networking for small CoCs (β = -.39, P < .05) and local government support for midsized CoCs (β = -.10, P < .05). For large CoCs, local government support was again significantly associated with lower service gaps, but there was also a significant interaction effect between advocacy and networking (β = .04, P < .05). Conclusions: To reduce service gaps and better serve the homeless, CoCs should consider taking steps to improve networking, particularly when advocacy is out of reach, and cultivate local government investment and support.