Studying the Transitional Living Program for Homeless Youth
- Collecting data from homeless youth is a challenge.
- An innovative, mixed methods approach addresses data collection challenges.
- The evaluation identified success factors to inform future programs.
Administered by the U.S. Health and Human Services (HHS) Family and Services Youth Bureau, the Transitional Living Program (TLP) provides supervised shelter and services to homeless young people aged 16 to 21. Collecting participant data that allows us to evaluate program effectiveness is challenging because some youth leave the TLP prematurely (they drop out or are expelled), and after exiting a TLP site, they may lack a fixed, stable living arrangement. Contacting youth to complete follow-up surveys may be difficult if youth who have left the program lack mailing addresses or reliable telephone numbers.
In support of HHS, Abt is leading an evaluation to estimate impacts of the TLP. Study participants will respond to web-based surveys three months after enrollment and after 12 months, when most youth in the treatment group have left the TLP. To address data collection challenges, the study team developed a mix-method approach to help prompt youth to complete surveys. Activities will include the development of an innovative on-line data collection tool; regularly scheduled meetings with TLP staff; follow-up emails, letters, and telephone calls with youth.
A key part of the evaluation is to identify the factors that contribute to positive outcomes, from housing stability to employment and educational attainment. These factors may include TLP program characteristics, types of services offered to youth, and a program site’s fidelity to the Positive Youth Development framework. Accordingly, Abt is conducting data collection with each participating TLP agency to understand the program design, characteristics, and constellation of services available. Results of the evaluation will help policymakers refine the design of future programs serving homeless youth.