To determine if the Office of Temporary and Disability Assistance’s initial Needs Assessments and Individual Living Plans are completed timely and if clients are receiving services needed to transition to permanent housing. The audit covered the period from January 2018 through October 2022.
About the Program
Homeless shelters across the State provide various services to individuals and families, including the assessment of needs, case management, access to health care (including physical and mental health), treatment for substance abuse, childcare services, and assistance with finding permanent housing. Local departments of social services (Local Districts) administer homeless services by either operating shelters directly or contracting with third-party providers to operate them. As of December 31, 2021, the Office of Temporary and Disability Assistance (Office) oversaw a network of 625 transitional homeless shelters across the State.
Each client who receives temporary housing in a certified shelter must take part in a Needs Assessment (Assessment) and the development of an Individual Living Plan (ILP), administered by the Local District or third-party provider. The Assessment is an evaluation of the client’s housing and care needs, including but not limited to the need for temporary housing and treatment of physical, mental health, and/or substance abuse issues. Beginning in January 2020, Assessments must begin within 1 business day of admission and be completed as soon thereafter as possible. Once the client completes the Assessment, the ILP is developed, setting forth a strategy for meeting the client’s needs – as identified in the Assessment – and outlining specific goals to help the client exit the shelter and return to self-sufficiency. The ILP includes tasks that will help the client reach their goals as well as any services that will be provided to assist with accomplishing these tasks. It also details additional services and support the client may need, such as life skills coaching and medical, mental health, and/or substance abuse treatment. The ILP must be completed within the first 10 days of admission to the shelter. The lack of an Assessment, or a late or incomplete Assessment, impacts the development of a client’s ILP and subsequently the timeliness of when they begin to receive services. While there are many factors that impact a successful transition to permanent housing, including, foremost, access to affordable housing, supports such as assistance in obtaining permanent housing can play a role in achieving housing stability.
According to the Office’s annual reimbursements to Local Districts for sheltering homeless clients, State reimbursement costs have remained relatively constant from 2018 through 2022 – ranging from $1.9 billion to $2.1 billion.
The Office is not adequately ensuring that Assessments and ILPs are completed in a timely manner and that all client support services are being provided.
- Assessments were either missing or late 40% of the time, and ILPs were either missing or late 38% of the time. This, in turn, impacts the timeliness of when clients begin to receive services and support aimed at helping them exit the shelter and return to self-sufficiency. Our prior audits focusing on shelter living conditions (2015-S-23, issued February 2016, and 2018-S-52, issued March 2020) also found that Assessments and ILPs were not completed timely over 20% of the time. According to the results of our current audit, missing or late Assessments and ILPs have nearly doubled from 2016 and 2020.
- For a sample of client cases, we found no evidence that support services listed in the ILPs were delivered, as follows:
- 1 of 2 cases requiring medical services (50%).
- 6 of 13 cases requiring substance abuse services (46%).
- 5 of 19 cases requiring mental health services (26%).
- 2 of 13 cases requiring multiple services (e.g., mental health and substance abuse) (15%).
- While 30% of clients in our sample (44 of 145) transitioned to permanent housing, 70% (101 clients) did not exit the shelter and transition to permanent housing, as follows:
- 62 clients left the shelter system, and their current location was unknown (43%).
- 19 clients were still residing in a shelter for periods ranging from 68 to 1,507 days, or over 4 years (13%).
- 8 clients were denied housing as they didn’t comply with program requirements (6%).
- 5 clients were removed from the shelter due to behavioral issues (3%).
- 4 clients were incarcerated (3%).
- 2 clients moved out of their Local District (1%).
- 1 client passed away (1%).
- The Office does not collect and analyze aggregate data that would allow it to identify primary causes for clients not achieving permanent housing and address these issues.
- Work with Local Districts and providers identified through the annual inspection process that have not prepared or have late or incomplete Assessments and ILPs. Develop additional oversight processes to the annual inspection process to identify Local Districts and providers that have not prepared or have late or incomplete Assessments and ILPs.
- Work with Local Districts and providers identified through the annual inspections process whose clients are not receiving needed services. Develop additional oversight processes to the annual inspection process to identify Local Districts and providers whose clients are not receiving needed services.
- Collect and analyze aggregate data that will allow the Office to identify primary causes for clients not achieving permanent housing and address these issues.
State Government Accountability Contact Information:
Audit Director: Nadine Morrell
Phone: (518) 474-3271; Email: [email protected]
Address: Office of the State Comptroller; Division of State Government Accountability; 110 State Street, 11th Floor; Albany, NY 12236