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HUD Supports Local Homelessness Planning Using New Abt-Designed Tool
Rockville, Md. – Communities trying to address homelessness, which is experienced by approximately 1.5 million Americans, need data to help quantify and understand the problem, and then they need a plan of action. The Stella Performance tool (Stella P)—which was co-developed and programmed by Abt Associates for the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD)—enables 400 local planning bodies (called Continuums of Care, or CoCs) to visualize how their systems currently serve people experiencing homelessness. Stella Modeling (Stella M), a new, complementary product Abt has developed for HUD, will enable those organizations to enter assumptions about what people experiencing homelessness need to generate recommendations of the number, type, and cost of housing resources that can be used to create detailed, population-specific plans.
Stella M uses system modeling, which “helps communities envision what an ideal system would look like,” explained Norm Suchar, Director, Office of Special Needs Assistance Programs, HUD. “To reduce disparities, you would look at what changes in performance and investments are needed to close equity gaps.” In practice, Stella M uses a community’s inputs on the number of people experiencing homelessness, project types, and performance goals to calculate the inventory of housing, shelter, and services needed to fully meet the community’s needs. Communities can then combine this data along with feedback from experts in homelessness—including people who have experienced homelessness—to identify potential solutions. “Then Stella M can use this information to model what an ideal system might look like—including the project inventory and performance—and help you do the planning necessary to implement that set of changes,” continued Suchar.
For example, if a community has determined there’s an over-representation of Black, indigenous, and people of color experiencing homelessness, Stella M can identify and quantify the types of housing and services that could address that inequity. Perhaps experts with lived experience identify inequitable wages as a leading factor in homelessness—additional rental assistance might provide a necessary stopgap, and Stella M can help calculate how that solution might be implemented. These strategies can be associated with costs, or with time spent in interventions, helping communities understand what is and isn’t working.
An early version of Stella M was used in Washington, DC, with great success. “System modeling [via Stella M] has been an essential tool for our community,” said Kristy Greenwalt, former Director to End Homelessness for Washington, DC. “As of January 2022, homelessness in the District had been cut by 47 percent, including a 78 percent reduction in homelessness among families. This progress provided city leaders with the confidence needed to continue making new investments in the plan, year over year.”
“Helping CoCs act on their data to implement solutions may really help us move the needle on homelessness,” said Abt’s project lead, Joyce MacAlpine.
“This is a great example of how Abt’s digital capabilities and expertise on homelessness can combine to make an impact for our clients and partners,” said Barbara Fields, Abt’s vice president of Housing.
About Abt Associates Abt Associates is a global consulting and research firm that combines data and bold thinking to improve the quality of people's lives. We partner with clients and communities to advance equity and innovation—from creating scalable digital solutions and combatting infectious disease, to mitigating climate change and evaluating programs for measurable social impact. https://www.abtassociates.com