How My Program Assessment Got 250 Homeless People Homes of Their Own

The day I fell in love with assessment was the day I found out that my assessment resulted in the Veterans Administration securing funding for homes for 200 chronically ill homeless veterans.

Assessment measures impact and impact influences important people. Say that 10 times fast!

Kristen Linton and research participant
Kristen Linton and research participant, 2012; permission granted to share the photo.

The assessment I conducted was of an intervention that started with a street survey of people who were living on the streets that measured their medical vulnerabilities, such as HIV, heart disease, or tri-morbidity (having a mental illness, physical illness, and substance abuse issue). After that, the participants were ranked by the most medically vulnerable. The top 50 most medically vulnerable were identified, found, and provided with a section 8 voucher (which covered rent), an apartment in Phoenix, starter furniture, and assigned a peer support person who had been previously homeless themselves as a mentor. The participants were not required to stop using drugs nor seek therapy, which are often requirements and huge barriers in traditional housing programs. The entire project was funded by individual donations from the community. I interviewed the participants with a semi-structured survey the day they moved into their apartment, six months later, and one year later. Our major findings were reductions in law enforcement interactions (through data provided by Phoenix PD), and self-reported improvements in substance use, quality of life, and costly medical care. Only one individual experienced a return to homelessness. You may not be impressed by these results, but you should be. Housing programs for homeless individuals often experienced high recidivism rates (return to homelessness) around 80%. After presenting our results, the Veterans Administration decided to fund an additional 200 homeless medically vulnerable veterans. I will never forget the people that I met while assessing the intervention and feel so lucky to have seen their growth over.

How does this translate into academic assessment? The message is the same. Assessment measures impact and impact influences important people. I came to CSUCI, because I believe in what we stand for. We are here to serve our community and our community needs us to be the best and bring the best resources to them. We can only do that if we have the data. Academic assessment used to focus on the individual, such as individual grades. But now, in 2020, when government funding is lower than it used to be, academic assessment focuses on groups and populations. For example, program-level assessment measures the impact a program has on their students. We must have data to show that we are meeting our program learning outcomes. This can be done through a myriad of ways, such as signature assignments in courses or additional data collection separate from course work (i.e. student culminating portfolios reviewed by a program chair using a rubric checking for competence in program learning objectives).

As the Academic Assessment Director in Spring 2020, I am excited to celebrate and document the assessments you are already conducting so we can influence important people and bring much needed resources to our incredible university.

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